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How To Overcome Post-COVID Barriers To Telemedicine

The term telemedicine was coined when an Australian doctor used a two-way radio to transmit a medical advertisement in 1900. But the meaning of the term has evolved drastically over time. Telemedicine refers to providing virtual remote healthcare with the healthcare service provider and the patient in different physical locations.

Today, the communication tools used in telemedicine are smaller, more advanced, and far more effective than the tools that were used when telemedicine first originated.

Initially, telemedicine technologies were meant to provide medical services to those who lived in regions that did not have a hospital. However, for people living in developed and developing countries, these technologies are a matter of convenience rather than a necessity. In the wake of the recent COVID-19 virus outbreak, things have changed significantly.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. Governments all around the world have initiated nationwide lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus. In times such as this, people are restricted from leaving their homes. If people require any healthcare service, the only option they have is to use a telehealth app.

These apps allow them to consult with a medical professional from the comfort of the homes. In such dire times, telemedicine apps have once again become a necessity. Analysts predict that the telemedicine industry will grow significantly in the coming years.

John Nosta

Founder, NostaLab

Telemedicine, for that matter, “teleANYTHING” is establishing a new normal that is less reactive to events like COVID-19 but more a response to the newly defined inadequacies of our current methodologies as well as the inevitable adoption of superior technology. Telemedicine will advance medicine to provide real-time, AI-empowered care that will subordinate the “old school office visit” to only an occasional event where human engagement can be optimized.

However, the transition from traditional healthcare solutions to telehealth will not be one that is easy. There are many barriers to telehealth implementation that will slow down the rate of adoption of telehealth solutions.

Physician and Patient Attitudes Toward Technology in Medicine

In terms of barriers to using telemedicine, patients and physicians expressed concerns that were unique to their perspective in the patient/physician interaction. Patients were most concerned about receiving an accurate diagnosis. The current lack of access to telemedicine was also perceived as a significant barrier.

Among physicians, practice issues were most important. Malpractice and liability concerns ranked highest among physicians. Reimbursement for physicians’ time and effort ranked second, although technical problems and privacy/security issues were also seen as significant barriers for many physicians.

For physicians, perceived barriers to telemedicine varied depending on whether they practiced in an urban, suburban, or rural area. Physicians in urban and suburban practices were most concerned about malpractice liability, reflecting the overall trend; in contrast, physicians in rural practices felt that technical problems with telemedicine technology were a greater obstacle.

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Most Common Barriers To Telehealth

Poor Internet Connectivity

A high-speed and reliable internet connection is considered as a prerequisite to run most telemedicine applications. However, internet coverage is still not widely available in developing countries, particularly in rural and remote areas. Therefore, the lack of reliable and high wideband internet poses a barrier to our smooth transitioning into telemedicine services.

Organization Structure

The biggest barrier to the development and implementation of telemedicine services is the lack of a formal organizational structure. The lack of collaboration between stakeholders, and the unpreparedness of the healthcare industry to adopt digital technologies, results due to the absence of a formal organizational structure. These barriers are the most significant bottlenecks in the development of telemedicine.

Margin

Currently, the cost of customer acquisition is one of the biggest challenges to telemedicine. Though the market for telemedicine is growing, healthcare service providers are concerned that due to the lowered consultation and treatment costs on telemedicine apps, they will not be able to make any profits. Some healthcare service providers believe that market forces will not allow them to compete in the telehealth industry. As a result, they will incur losses.

Utilization

Another telehealth barrier is the purpose for which patients use telehealth services. Most patients that use telehealth solutions only use it for headaches, sore throats, earaches, and running noses. While it is more convenient for these patients to use telemedicine apps, the industry as a whole will not change unless telemedicine replaces patient visits regarding more severe issues. This transformation is happening but at a slow pace. Over the course of the decade, we can expect to see monumental changes in the healthcare industry.

Misdiagnoses

This is the telehealth barrier that patients are most concerned about. Sometimes, the virtual doctor may not be able to diagnose the patient’s symptoms adequately. This may lead to unnecessary prescriptions and drive up costs.

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How Can We Overcome These Barriers To Telemedicine

Telemedicine solutions do have their drawbacks, but telemedicine can overcome its barriers and reach their full potential if patients and healthcare service providers are appropriately educated about telehealth services. Here are some of the ways in which these telemedicine barriers can be overcome.

Using EHR

The use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) provides doctors with a complete history of a patient’s illnesses. This improves the accuracy of the diagnosis and reduces the probability of misdiagnosis. It also speeds up the process of treating the patient.

Monitoring The Patients

With the help of telehealth solutions, healthcare providers can monitor patients after their treatment. By checking on patients after they have been discharged, hospital readmissions can be reduced. This also helps the patients trust the virtual healthcare industry more. As a result, they will feel encouraged to use telehealth apps even for more severe illnesses.

Broadband Funding

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated that funding for broadband internet is imperative to level the playing field in the healthcare industry. The FCC’s initiatives such as Connected Care NPRM, and the Rural Digital Opportunity fund are striving to bring reliable broadband networks with low latency and sufficient upload bandwidth to support telehealth requirements in rural areas.

Telemedicine Training

Many healthcare organizations lack a formal structure and the technological sophistication that is required to adopt telemedicine services and more advanced healthcare delivery models. This barrier can be resolved by incorporating telemedicine training as part of the medical school curriculum.

This will change society’s expectations of medical professionals in the future. As a result, healthcare professionals will be trained to use the right telemedicine equipment and keep up with the ever-changing advancements in technology.

Reimbursement Regulations

The policies that deal with reimbursement rules in the healthcare industry have not been updated to include telemedicine services. As more healthcare organizations have started to use telemedicine technologies to create new revenue streams, several medical service providers have started to lobby for more favorable payment policies.

As a result, more states have started to enact new telehealth insurance coverage. In the near future, the current payment parity laws will be amended to account for the rising popularity of telemedicine.

Jeff Carroll

Founder, JC Telemedicine

The mechanisms in place that have long prevented the widespread use of Telemedicine are starting to fall apart. It’s now easier than ever to achieve a stellar patient experience. We live in the era of direct-to-consumer and patient care is finally catching up. In fact, companies that do not embrace technology to deliver care will be left behind.

Conclusion

Telemedicine solutions have already become a recognized and valued segment of the healthcare industry. In the near future, telehealth solutions could be adopted at a significantly faster rate due to it being offered as a covered benefit, which is part of a comprehensive health plan. But if you invest in it right now, you will undoubtedly see long-term clinical and financial returns.

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Content Team

This blog is from Mindbowser‘s content team – a group of individuals coming together to create pieces that you may like. If you have feedback, please drop us a message on contact@mindbowser.com
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