It doesn’t look like telehealth is going away anytime soon. But we’ve got to be careful that we address the telehealth challenges we still face so physicians can continue to provide expert-level care to patients virtually.
WALTHAM, Mass. (PRWEB)
July 20, 2021
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued social distancing recommendations, directing healthcare entities and physicians to offer clinical services using telehealth.(1) By April 2020, telehealth use for office visits and outpatient care was 78 times higher compared to utilization in February 2020.(2) Technological innovations, combined with public perception of the contagiousness of the virus, helped dramatically increase telehealth use. Now, some estimates predict that up to $250 billion in US healthcare spending could be shifted to virtual care.(2)
Stuart Long, CEO of InfoBionic, a premier digital health company, says, “It doesn’t look like telehealth is going away anytime soon. But we’ve got to be careful that we address the telehealth challenges we still face so physicians can continue to provide expert-level care to patients virtually.”
COVID-19 vaccination rates are increasing, but so are new infection cases given the variants of the virus that are spreading nationally (and globally). Therefore, telehealth use continues to be an important part of the patient care experience. Utilization of these remote services has stabilized at 38 times higher than before the pandemic, and both consumer and physician attitudes toward these technologies have improved.(2) In its earliest days, only a limited number of services were approved for telehealth delivery. Now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reimburses providers for hundreds of services furnished via telehealth.(3)
Benefits of Telehealth Technology
Beyond the obvious convenience of telehealth, remote telehealth technologies offer significant benefits to users:
Telehealth offers better access to care, especially for people in rural areas or areas with provider shortages.(4)
- Telehealth saves healthcare entities a lot of money. A new study showed that using telehealth to access patients, rather than having them travel to an emergency department, saves as much as $1,500 per patient.(5)
- Patients using Telehealth also save money; the national median cost for a telehealth virtual visit is around $50, while in-person visits typically cost between $85 and $740, depending on the patient’s needs.(6)
- Telehealth utilization can actually strengthen the patient-provider relationship, since these technologies increase rates of communication and provide access to clinical data immediately, from any location.(7)
As a result of the benefits of telehealth, the global telehealth market size is expected to reach $559.52 billion by 2027.(8)
6 Challenges to Effective Telehealth
Even though telehealth technologies clearly benefit all members of the healthcare system, there are still significant challenges that must be addressed for this care model to truly succeed long term.
1. There are still large variations in legal and regulatory rules, regulations, and guidelines for practice.(4)
2. Currently, a lack of multistate telehealth licensure means that physicians cannot provide medical services across certain geographic barriers.(4)
3. Providers cannot perform comprehensive physician examinations via telehealth, making in-person office visits necessary. Remote patient monitoring devices can offer physicians information on the patient’s vital signs, but there is no comprehensive device nor one that goes subtantially beyond blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, glucose levels, cardiac rhythm, and pulse.
4. Technical difficulties may make using telehealth especially difficult for certain patients, such as the elderly.
5. Greater privacy and security risks may turn some patients away from these technologies.
6. The accuracy of data transmission may be compromised depending on factors such as Internet bandwidth.(4)
Telehealth, Before and After
The differences in telehealth before and after COVID-19 impact patients and providers alike.
- Before COVID-19, only patients in remote or rural areas were given access to telehealth. Now, anyone has access to this service.(9)
- Patients initially needed to travel to an office, hospital, or other medical center to receive telehealth services. Patients can now receive these services in their own homes.(9)
- Providers can now see new and existing patients. Previously, only patients with an established patient-provider relationship were eligible for telehealth.(9)
- Healthcare providers now also have the option to reduce or waive costs for telehealth visits provided under Medicare. Prior to COVID-19, deductibles and co-insurance applied for telehealth services.(9)
Telehealth is here to stay as an important component of effective patient care. Companies like InfoBionic will continue to develop innovative products, like the MoMe® Kardia cardiac monitor, to keep patients and physicians connected virtually.
“It’s amazing to see where telehealth was compared to where it’s going. Right now, there are 29 states participating in the Hospitals Without Walls initiative, and that’s going to increase. The pandemic was a catalyst for healthcare entities to make a major shift globally. Now comes the part where we apply the lessons learned and make healthcare stronger,” says Long.
InfoBionic is a digital health company transforming the efficiency and economics of ambulatory remote patient monitoring processes by optimizing clinical and real-world utility for the users that need it most – physicians and their patients. The Massachusetts-based team of seasoned entrepreneurs have had successful careers in healthcare, IT, medical devices and mobile technology, and bring specific expertise in remote monitoring and cardiology. They have seen first-hand the complexities of traditional cardiac arrhythmia detection and monitoring processes and designed the transformative MoMe® Kardia platform to remove the roadblocks hindering faster, more effective diagnosis and decision-making. Frost & Sullivan bestowed the 2019 North American Remote Cardiac Monitoring Technology Leadership Award upon InfoBionic.
1. “Trends in the Use of Telehealth During the Emergence of the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, January–March 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Oct. 2020, cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6943a3.htm.
2. Bestsennyy, Oleg, et al. “Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality?” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 9 July 2021, mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality.
3. “List of Telehealth Services.” CMS, 2021, cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-General-Information/Telehealth/Telehealth-Codes.
4. Gajarawala, Shilpa N, and Jessica N Pelkowski. “Telehealth Benefits and Barriers.” The Journal for Nurse Practitioners : JNP, Elsevier Inc., Feb. 2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7577680/.
5. “New Study Shows Telehealth Saves $1,500 Per Visit.” OrthoLive, 18 Sept. 2020, ortholive.com/blog/new-study-shows-telehealth-saves-1500-per-visit/.
6. Lankford, Kimberly. “How Telemedicine Can Save You Money | Family Finance | US News.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 6 Apr. 2020, money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/how-telemedicine-can-save-you-money.
7. “How Telehealth Enhances the Patient-Doctor Relationship.” InTouch Health, 26 Mar. 2020, intouchhealth.com/how-telehealth-enhances-patient-doctor-relationship/#:~:text=Care%20providers%20are%20used%20to,effective%20as%20meeting%20in%20person.
8. Fortune Business Insights. “Telehealth Market Size 2021: Is Projected to Reach USD 559.52 Billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 25.2%.” GlobeNewswire News Room, Fortune Business Insights, 18 May 2021, globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/05/18/2231503/0/en/Telehealth-Market-Size-2021-Is-Projected-to-Reach-USD-559-52-Billion-by-2027-with-a-CAGR-of-25-2.html.
9. “Telehealth Before and After COVID-19.” Caravan Health, caravanhealth.com/CaravanHealth/media/Resources-Page/Telehealth_BeforeAfter_COVID19.pdf