The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines telehealth as “the use of telecommunications and information technology to provide access to health assessment, diagnosis, intervention, consultation, supervision and information across distance. Telehealth includes such technologies as telephones, facsimile machines, electronic mail systems, and remote patient monitoring devices which are used to collect and transmit data for monitoring and interpretation”.
The health care landscape is always changing, but the surge in telehealth use amid the coronavirus pandemic has shown that telehealth is going to stay. It became an essential tool for patient access to care during the public health emergency (PHE) and a financial lifeline for providers trying to remain open during lockdowns.
Since the pandemic, providers have been feeling increasingly comfortable with the use of telehealth services. The majority (69 percent) find it easy or very easy. This is leading to practices beginning to incorporate telehealth into their strategic planning, rather than considering it as something ‘on the side’. Keeping costs down while making healthcare more accessible and efficient is one of the major benefits of telehealth.
An increase in health care wearables and devices that patients can use at home to monitor their health also plays an important role in the shift to telehealth, but is also an issue regarding appropriate safeguards.
“Home telehealth devices and sensors may collect and transmit information on activities that a patient wishes to keep private. Smartphone apps may share sensitive data with advertisers and other third parties in ways not anticipated by users. The primary security risk involves unauthorized access to data during collection, transmission, or storage.”
COVID-19 has significantly impacted the American healthcare landscape with telehealth becoming a more and more important part of how people access care. It is an essential tool in ensuring patients are able to access the healthcare services they need in as safe a manner as possible.
Yes, there will certainly be risks and challenges. However, many patients and providers would agree that optimized telehealth not only has the potential to improve patient outcomes but can also improve efficiency and time management.
Telehealth will not go away, and it will continue to change as the landscape of care delivery and patient experience changes. And it is more cost effective as well.
A broader reach, faster consultations, and improved patient care – telehealth seems to offer a solution for patients, providers and payers.
The best path forward to a successful telehealth future will involve collaboration between patients, providers, and provider support organizations.