Most people are familiar with the rise of telehealth during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, 50% of patients confirmed they used a telehealth service during the year and the market value is expected to reach $186.5 billion by 2026.
Telehealth services offer a variety of benefits that will continue to provide value beyond the pandemic. Although a major attraction to the virtual service is the social distancing aspect, the convenience of in-home doctors’ visits will likely fuel the continued growth.
Like most new technology advancements, remote services have experienced growing pains throughout the increased adoption. Unsurprisingly, telehealth challenges have also increased as the service continues to grow in popularity. Cybersecurity threats, adoption among older patients, and quality care concerns all top the list of challenges practices face when implementing telehealth services.
Because senior patients are among the highest risk for severe and deadly covid-19 infections, the ability to avoid in-person contact through telehealth appointments is essential. However, senior patients have the lowest telehealth adoption rate compared to younger age groups, typically due to technical challenges and uncertainty.
To increase telehealth adoption among senior patients, family members and healthcare providers must come together. One common strategy for assisting elderly patients during a telehealth visit is to ensure a family member attends the visit either alongside the elderly patient or through a video connection application.
Some practices are running trial video appointments with an office administrator a few days prior to the scheduled appointment with the clinician. Doing so serves as a training session for the patient, often leading to reduced anxiety and uncertainty.
With the vast increase of telehealth adoption during 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lifted many restrictions on the use of communication apps such as FaceTime and Facebook Video Chat to increase access to virtual care. Unsurprisingly, relaxed restrictions contributed to a severe rise in cybersecurity threats and attacks.
“As we continue this shift to telemedicine, new issues and risks unravel that need to be addressed, particularly in regard to information security and privacy, and ongoing work is needed to ensure that our technology infrastructure provides an environment for safe and effective care delivery.”
Harvard Medical School team letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Because patient health information is so valuable, healthcare systems must ensure they take proper precautions to protect this data in an online setting. One effective strategy is to employ prevention and detection technology systems like AI, Blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Additionally, medical practice employees need training to catch attempted cyber threats, especially through phishing emails. Other best-practice security systems including encrypting data, updating software, running antivirus software, using two-factor authentication, and following cybersecurity regulations should be top priorities when utilizing digital health initiatives like telehealth.
Quality Care Concerns
When surveyed about telehealth concerns, patients cited quality care as their number one worry, and rightfully so. Because many health troubles require a physical examination, patients feel that a doctor may not be able to form an accurate diagnosis.
In cases like these, the healthcare provider must be able to schedule a safe, in-person appointment to ensure the patient receives top-quality care. Practices should have a specialized protocol for in-person exams, including scheduling, coordination, payment, and a contactless check-in.
Convenience, affordability, and safety are among the major reasons telehealth adoption will continue to increase during the foreseeable future. If your medical practice currently takes advantage of telehealth or is planning to implement a system this year, now is the perfect time to ensure the proper protocols are in place to simplify the process for patients while also protecting their sensitive personal information.