We live in a connected world. We can utilize the internet in most areas of our life, from ordering food, reserving airline tickets, and keeping in touch with friends and family. It was only a matter of time before the connectivity and ease-of-use of wireless communication and videoconferencing made their way to mainstream healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the use of telehealth across the board. The shutdown forced people home and away from their doctor’s offices and regular visits. Since the pandemic has upended everything, the clear benefits of telehealth have assisted its widespread popularity.
The current need exists for telehealth implementation for doctors and patients.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry needed to pivot to continue serving patients consistently. One of the ways they did this was via telehealth services. Providers could reach homebound and quarantined patients with virtual visits and keep people safe from crowded waiting rooms.
Widely adopted during the pandemic, telehealth shows no signs of waning in popularity. According to a Harris Poll, 76 percent of respondents were likely to continue utilizing telehealth services after the pandemic.
With this continued demand, telehealth companies, app creators, platforms, and healthcare providers will have to make changes to help the technology remain viable.
MediGuru is a telehealth software platform that enables a healthcare system, provider network, or payer network to set up a customized & branded telemedicine solution as part of their virtual care practice. Their goal is to help you implement a strategic long-term telemedicine solution that forms the cornerstone of your virtual care practice.
Keys to ensure an issue-free transition from the doctor’s office to a virtual setting.
To sustain the post-pandemic demand for telehealth services, companies must make changes that include access, ease of use, safety and security, and preparation.
Granting greater access to telehealth is probably the most significant change the industry will need to make in the coming years. During COVID, some federal and regulatory changes took place for emergency purposes. One of these changes was eliminating the “originating site rule.” The elimination of this rule allowed physicians to be paid regardless of where the patient resides. This change opened the door for greater access to patients everywhere.
Increasing access for rural patients is also essential. This access will take a federal push to expand broadband access for rural areas or areas with spotty service.
COVID also saw an increase in audio-only healthcare for those who do not have access to phones with video capability or computers.
Lastly, creating greater access to prescription medication via telehealth visits is paramount. The Ryan Haight Act was in place pre-pandemic. This act required patients seeking opioid treatment to have a face-to-face visit first. During the pandemic, this act was suspended. Keeping this act suspended and increasing the capabilities of telehealth prescribing would increase access to controlled prescriptions for people who need them most.
Ease of Use
One of the barriers to telehealth success is its ease of use for some patients. Adopting platforms that allow for one-click easy access and no complicated downloads or installs is a start. Many patients who rely on telehealth access may not be computer savvy enough to navigate a complex platform system. Truthfully, your platform may only be as good as its most minor tech-savvy users’ ability to figure it out. If it’s too complicated, you’re not seeing a platform or software last.
It will be up to telehealth companies and creators to consistently innovate new and easier access to healthcare providers.
Safety and Security
Companies that provide telehealth services, like MediGuru, are placing a strong emphasis on security and HIPAA compliance, which put both patient and provider at ease concerning information they want to protect. Providers utilize platforms such as Zoom, Webex, and Skype, and companies are stepping up to adapt those platforms to healthcare, making them more secure.
HIPAA compliance and keeping information secure are at the top of most patients’ concerns concerning telehealth. It can be daunting to exchange sensitive information over the internet, not knowing who can hear you or access your records.
Keeping tabs on remaining HIPAA compliant will be integral to the success of telehealth companies. Utilizing security measures such as auto-expire personalized links to visits will help reassure patients and ensure continued telehealth use.
If the telehealth industry wants to secure utilization across the board, it must prepare and innovate. Healthcare will need to adapt to changing regulations, patient demand, and a pandemic scenario always in flux.
This preparation can happen through patient and physician training, marketing telehealth systems to understand, and seeking new ways to bring telehealth to the healthcare industry easier, faster, and more affordable for providers.
Positive improvements will contribute to better overall patient care and support doctor needs.
Telehealth isn’t going anywhere. Its presence in the healthcare space is likely permanent. However, its permanence doesn’t mean it needs to remain stagnant in innovation or the ability to change with the times. If telehealth companies and physicians work together and keep one another accountable to flexibility, telehealth is sure to only grow in use and popularity.
Dr. Mark Kestner, Chief Innovation Officer of Mediguru, is a seasoned executive with experience in military leadership, higher education, and community-based healthcare systems. He joined Mediguru during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped innovate accessible and secure telehealth options.