While obstacles are plenty if sought, we've already seen how telehealth has been a saviour for most of us.
Because telehealth encompasses such a wide variety of technology and services, its implementation will require an ongoing experiment to determine the best practices for the future.
Whilst amplifying patient experience, widespread implementation of telehealth poses great challenges as well. Below are some of them.
Payment - Reimbursement and insurance coverage for telemedicine services versus in-person consultation is a huge challenge. There is no guarantee of payment parity between telemedicine and in-person consultation. This can be detrimental for telemedicine and discourage healthcare providers from offering it to their patients.
Misdiagnosis - Misdiagnosis is a common appearance at an in-person consultation. With telemedicine the risk of misdiagnosis further increases. Adding to this challenge is a lack of regulation and standards governing telemedicine. Misdiagnosis can defeat the entire purpose of making quality healthcare affordable as it leads to wrong prescriptions and treatments.
Additionally, if an accurate diagnosis cannot be made through telemedicine then a patient might be asked to seek urgent care, which may not be required. Therefore, this further decreases the scope of telemedicine.
Telehealth vendors - A strange challenge of using telehealth technologies is how to hold the telehealth technology vendors accountable. While they are integral for telehealth's success, they need to be held responsible and provide compensation in individual cases. What's more, is the line between the provider and the care platform is blurred when it comes to telehealth vendors.
Widespread implementation - Telehealth can refer to so many different things, right from drones, robotics to telephone consultations. Since healthcare is heavily regulated, certain responsibilities of implementation may fall within the legal system and some with the government. Some of it is institutional and the rest lies with hospitals and healthcare institutions.
There are also various financial aspects to it that require sound business strategy and effective utilisation of human resources.
Interoperability - Interoperability is fundamental for telehealth's long-term success. Taking electronic health data and ensuring interoperability among various apps will require secure data exchange without special efforts from the user. Second, interoperability needs complete access, modification, and use of all patient electronic health information. Finally, it must restrict information blocking or any "knowingly and unreasonably" interfering with the exchange of Electronic Health Record (EHR) data.
To perform all of these tasks requires the development of core standards and practices, cross-training, and a significant amount of investment in data security across all features of the telehealth platform.
While obstacles are plenty if sought, we've already seen how telehealth has been a saviour for most of us. But because telehealth encompasses such a wide variety of technology and services, its implementation will require an ongoing experiment to determine the best practices for the future.
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