Telemedicine Challenges and How to Resolve Them
Telemedicine is one of the best uses of technology in healthcare, and the need for access is only growing. But there are telemedicine challenges to address.
Telemedicine is exactly the kind of digital transformation healthcare needed. It’s revolutionized care, saving money, time, and possibly lives. Now, the need for telemedicine is heightened as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though telemedicine has evolved, it’s not perfect. Let’s look at some of the current telemedicine challenges and ideas for solving them.
COVID-19 Has Led to Relaxed Restrictions
CMS and other entities have relaxed restrictions on telemedicine in response to the coronavirus. Medicare coverage of telehealth visits has expanded, adding 85 new services that are covered. Following suit, states and payers have rolled back previous restrictions. Coverage has long been a telemedicine challenge, and the environment has prompted swifter change.
While some restrictions have been removed, private insurers still have inconsistencies. Regulation of insurance occurs at the state level. That means that national insurers could have different rules for each state. This issue needs to be addressed with standardization.
Post-pandemic, all payers should reconsider coverage of telehealth visits. Having this option for all patients could encourage better preventive care while allowing providers to treat more efficiently.
One of the biggest gaps, still unaltered by an ease in restrictions, is that therapy sessions still remain uncovered. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Having easier access to mental health resources could have a significant impact on patients.
Lack of Broadband Internet Access
Even though we live in a digital world, about 10% of the U.S. population doesn’t use it or have it. The internet isn’t considered a public utility. Many have propositioned that local governments should build their own broadband networks instead of relying on internet service providers (ISPs).
There is an opportunity for payers to get involved in the discussion. They could offer incentives for using telemedicine. To determine if this would be cost-effective, payers will need to look at all the costs. Could providing internet to patients without it actually decrease overall healthcare costs? It’s a question CMS and private payers should consider.
Interoperability and Integration
If you’re new to telemedicine, you may be concerned about how to select and roll out a program. There are lots of pieces that need to fit together, especially regarding interoperability and integration. Can your telemedicine platform gather information or transfer it to your EHR? As a user, you want a tool that fits in with your workflow and makes it easy to collect and share patient records. On top of this, you’ll need to consider HIPAA compliance.
Launching new software is critical right now, but it’s not something you want to deploy without ensuring it’s effective and efficient. What may be holding you back is the additional strain it may put on your internal IT resources. Partnering with a provider that can compliantly share PHI can accelerate deployment and adoption.
Embracing Telemedicine Now and in the Future
Telemedicine is really about offering access. Patients, especially those in rural areas, need expanded options. By solving some of the remaining telemedicine challenges, the healthcare ecosystem can scale and truly provide unabated access.
What do you think? Is telemedicine the future of healthcare?