From the peripheries, now telehealth has moved into the mainstream of health care system. Telehealth means delivering medical, health and education services. It provides clinical support to patients from remote location, with help of telecommunication and information technology.
Telehealth has become a bridge between patients and providers. Though many individuals may prefer to continue to receive traditional in-person care, they do not realize that telehealth and teleconsultation offers opportunities to increase patient’s choice and expand scope of services.
When it comes to Veterans’ care, providers can deliver patient care across state lines and outside of Veterans Affairs’ facility, using telehealth. For instance, there is use of video-to-home services to assist patients suffering from mental health conditions, obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction.
The latest buzz is, telehealth is also used to help sexual trauma survivors, who are hesitant to visit a medical facility. Telehealth trends has shaped the future of healthcare industry. There are new and improved security regulations that are more reliable. Also, all the medical information of patients is stored in cloud and so it is easily accessible to them.
Telehealth is framed to improve access in rural settings. For instance, the providers are able to ask about specific blood pressure measurements and remind patients about their treatment. There is also an increase in patient access due to:
- Providing education and guidance
- Providing support to develop broadband infrastructure in rural areas
- Amend regulatory restrictions that are limiting reimbursement
Telehealth program is bringing care beyond regular settings. It has evolved from growing sub-segment to a core component of care delivery. The telehealth program provides with interactive voice response, a web app, and virtual care. For instance, telehealth is providing access to care in school, where kids are the majority of the time; creating healthier students through the virtual care.
There is also an expansion in telehealth market space with new applications and new models of telehealth precision, concierge services, regenerative medicine, and medical spas. Even though, telehealth provides numerous facilities and many patients do receive telemedicine services, without knowing that it is being used; that is a sign of success.
Despite the mentioned advantages, virtual visits and remote monitoring; there is resistance to change, there are fears about integration with technology, and reimbursement. These common misconceptions must be overcome.
Barriers and Challenges in Telehealth:
Sometimes there may be difficulty in implementation as many patients want to have access to their ongoing conditions and treatments, which increases patient access. But on the other hand, the older people with physical disabilities and those with lower incomes utilize less internet.
Both patients and providers must trust the technology to be safe and effective. Some patients are hesitant to believe the decisions made by unseen providers/specialists, through telemedicine rather than those made face to face.
As most of the healthcare providers move to a national system, the regulations for practices is causing barrier and licensure has become even bigger barrier. Some states require in-person consultation before initiation of any telemedicine services. As providers are licensed in the state they are residing in, it becomes a challenge to have a telehealth visit with the patient who has travelled out of state.
Then comes Reimbursement, which is cited as one of the major barriers in telemedicine. This restriction is due to the fact that some providers might abuse the healthcare system or drive up costs when it comes to telehealth. Now, reimbursement has become the key consideration because we continue to deliver care as fee-for-service.
For instance, every 20 minutes of visit is replaced by two minutes of telehealth consultation. In this manner the practice regains a slot for higher reimbursement as patients are given immediate care and reducing the burden on the providers. Some argue, but by lowering the cost of healthcare delivery, reimbursement rates actually improve by implementing smart telehealth strategy.
Just as reimbursement; workflow and fear of change is also an ongoing challenge. Sometimes the providers have to design a telehealth-specific protocol to treat certain conditions. To further implement this, the providers have to make schedule for specific timings to provide the telehealth visits. This adds on to their existing workload.
Many technologies are showing potential market of healthcare. For the longest period of time, technology has been the focus of telemedicine for a long time because the huge amount of data is not easily maintained. For example, continuous monitoring of temperature and blood pressure. Smart telehealth must integrate well with core systems such as EHR.
When implemented successfully, the technology reduces friction for both, patients and providers, and is well adjusted in the providers’ workflow. For example, the tool must link to relevant information about the patient from system’s EHR and help the provider by promoting chart-ready notes.
Another barrier is broadband connectivity. There is a need to have affordable broadband to support telehealth and health information exchange in order to increase access to quality care. Particularly in rural areas, access to broadband remains underserved. Due to lack of access to healthcare services, there are major public health issues that impact rural communities and their economic development. Not only for community, broadband is also necessary for education and training.
When it comes to revenue cycle management, telehealth is also trying to overcome the challenges regarding documentation and coding issues, and reimbursement issues.
It is necessary to take time and understand the new codes and reimbursement guidelines, and implement them carefully.
As telehealth grows, potential for penalties also grows. Therefore, it is important to gain assurance and take reasoned approach through training and educating the staff, which in turn will help ensure that your practice is not having any adverse effects. The practice can flawlessly continue to leverage the benefits of telehealth.
While these challenges are overcome by implementing successful telehealth program, it requires a flexible approach, recognizing regulations and culture of a practice, thus becoming an excepted mode of care delivery. As there is increased sharing of best practices and increased in awareness from the patients; there will be decrease in challenges associated with the telehealth program.
As telehealth evolves, the regulations, practice, and culture also evolves. Aim is to increase awareness and fulfill demands of the patients by encouraging the adaption of telehealth. iPatientCare provides unlimited resources and support to the practice and staff members. Partner with iPatientCare and use the tools they provide to develop skills and overcome all the challenges, thus improving care at home and community as a whole. Overall, telehealth is a vital component in helping patients and their providers to manage health in better way.