Telehealth’s New Normal Brings Challenges and Opportunity
It didn’t take long for patients and providers to embrace telehealth. The future, though exciting, holds many questions.
Seeing a doctor from a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone has quickly become a way of life.
In a matter of days, healthcare organizations turned to or expanded their use of HIPAA-compliant collaboration tools such as Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom to reach patients remotely in response to COVID-19.
IT staffers, meanwhile, worked overtime to acquire and provision more mobile devices and bolster Wi-Fi networks so clinicians could safely connect and deliver the same high-quality care wherever it was needed most.
That need is great: Consumers’ virtual care adoption increased more than 400 percent over 2019, according to an April survey by McKinsey, with 74 percent of users reporting a positive experience. Among providers, more than half view telehealth more favorably than they did before COVID-19; two-thirds are more comfortable using it.
And early deployments continue to evolve. “The way the end users quickly adopted and accepted a less-than-perfect solution was pretty amazing,” says Novlet Mattis, CIO for Orlando Health, whose early strategies included using iPad devices for virtual rounding and for ICU patients to see loved ones.
The Work Is Far from Over
As we look to the future of this virtual landscape, many questions remain. Broad federal waivers temporarily expanding virtual care access under Medicaid and Medicare will need to be re-evaluated by Congress. So will exceptions to rules on prescribing medication online, physician licensing to treat patients in other states and data security protocols.
But there’s plenty to be excited about, says Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, who notes that easy-to-use platforms that sync with familiar consumer tech will have a positive and permanent effect on public health. For more insights, check out our coverage of the ATA’s recent conference here.