Telemedicine is one of the most notable advancements making waves in the digital transformation of healthcare. Telemedicine poses wins for healthcare organizations seeking to improve patient access while controlling costs, as well as healthcare consumers looking for more convenient ways to engage with providers. With 71 percent of providers reporting the use of telehealth and telemedicine tools, it’s clear that the industry is sold on the benefits of virtualized care. Telemedicine market projections suggest that the industry will reach roughly $20 billion by 2025.
The patient and provider benefits of telemedicine are manifold—including reduced readmissions through remote patient monitoring, reduced costs via virtual access to specialists, and improved patient engagement—but barriers to adoption still linger. Here are five key challenges giving healthcare executives pause when it comes to telemedicine adoption and recommendations on how to successfully navigate those hurdles.
1) Understanding what comprises telemedicine. Due to varying state and federal definitions, as well as variance between Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial payer guidelines on what constitutes telemedicine, confusion still exists regarding what services will and won’t be reimbursed. Establishing a keen understanding of what virtual services qualify and how those services are reimbursed for each payer is vital. This will lay the foundation for quantifying the potential revenue impact of adoption.
2) Concerns around the cost to implement. Costs associated with telemedicine program adoption can include a myriad of factors, from video conferencing adoption to remote patient monitoring expansion. To mitigate the potential for expense sprawl, executives should identify key, phase-one telemedicine service offerings. Weigh earnings potential against anticipated program implementation and support costs to justify those telemedicine coverage areas.
3) Added data vulnerability. With healthcare security breaches on the rise, executive teams remain cautious of any patient data exposure risk. Many view virtual care delivery as an additional layer of potential threat. As with other IT implementations, thorough security protocols and routine audits should be put in place to guard against the real-time exposure of protected health information (PHI).
4) Potential for fraud and abuse. Telemedicine agreements can be subject to federal kickback laws, particularly in situations involving referrals for additional services. Providers must remain up-to-date on the regulations governing telemedicine services to ensure regulatory compliance and proper eligibility for reimbursement.
5) Patient awareness of and trust in virtual care offerings. Even with the proper broadband and internet resources in place to support patient adoption of telemedicine, providers may encounter patient reluctance to engage virtually. Healthcare organizations must cultivate trust by educating patients on offerings and what they can anticipate during virtual visits. Providers should also address security concerns with patients.
To ensure that engagement in telemedicine is a long-term trend as opposed to a short-term fad, healthcare providers will have to address and overcome these challenges. By implementing a telemedicine strategy that addresses these challenges head-on, providers can overcome barriers and rise to meet growing consumer demand for more convenient provider engagement options. As more healthcare organizations pivot to embrace new digital health platforms, telemedicine adoption, specifically, is quickly emerging as a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive landscape.
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