Health ITTelemedicineTelehealth Opportunities and Burdens in 2020

Some say ‘burden’. Others say ‘opportunity’. Here are three areas where telehealth can grow.

Prior to The COVID outbreak of 2019/2020, lack of awareness was a major concern for telehealth. Well, all that has changed; a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by Sykes in late March 2020 showed that: 

  • 73% of Americans would consider using telehealth for COVID screening.
  •  60% knew if their provider offered telehealth services.
  • Only 3% would not consider a telehealth appointment.

However, key concerns around telehealth also emerged in the survey:

  • 36% preferred to meet in-person.
  •  41% were unsure of the quality of care they’d receive.
  • 12% were uncomfortable sharing health information virtually.
  •  9% doubted they had enough Internet connectivity for an appointment.
  • 9% did not want to install any new apps.

From a patient’s perspective, telehealth has some work to do before it’s a trusted solution. Let’s consider what opportunities – or burdens – telehealth providers need to address.

3 key telehealth burdens – and opportunities

Behind every challenge is a solution, if companies are willing to put in the work. Yes, regulatory and insurance issues need to be unraveled, but these won’t matter if patients aren’t using telehealth solutions. So, let’s take a high-level look at three things telehealth providers can address to increase patient adoption:

Burden: Quality of care concerns

Opportunity: Build trust

Unless you’re chatting with your trusted family physician or another known provider, there’s a faceless aspect to telemedicine that understandably puts people off. However, there are many ways to build trust into the telehealth experience:

  • Acknowledge the patient’s concern and right to know.
  • Ensure the provider is licensed to practice in the patient’s area.
  • Share information about the provider’s credentials (e.g. a board-certified dermatologist) and experience.
  • Explain how diagnosis over distance works, including the use of any connected devices.
  • Detail how their medical information is used and secured.

Burden: Usability / internet issues

Opportunity: Patient-oriented design

Reliable Internet is still a problem in the 21st century, especially in rural areas. A dropped connection in the middle of a virtual doctor visit is intensely stressful; it’s not surprising that people with slow Internet speeds hesitate to use virtual care. While providers can’t do much to increase their patients’ Internet speeds or mobile signal strength, they can have developers optimize telehealth offerings to use as little bandwidth as possible. They can also ensure that there’s more than enough bandwidth at their location to handle multiple remote visits at one time.

The other side of this picture is usability: people don’t want to spend a lot of time learning new apps or software just to talk to a doctor. To overcome this reluctance, make everything as simple as possible: employ patient-centric user design in your telehealth offering and explain how to download, install, and log into any necessary apps.

Burden: Privacy

Opportunity: Transparency

No one likes the thought of their personal information winging through the unsecured ether of the Internet. While it’s true that the U.S. government has relaxed protocol on some information sharing (like allowing providers to use Zoom for virtual appointments), there’s by no means a free-for-all on medical records. To ally patient fears, be very clear on who will access their visit information and why. Explain how information is stored and encrypted; many mainstream telehealth providers are already HIPAA compliant, so their patients’ information is probably safer than they realize.

Telehealth’s popularity will certainly outlive the COVID-19 epidemic. It won’t fully replace traditional healthcare, but it will compliment it. That’s why investing in telehealth now will pay dividends in the future.

This post has been sponsored by Star

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Digital Health Buzz!

Digital Health Buzz!

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