The top 4 barriers to telemedicine adoption

Telemedicine, also called telehealth, is one of the most promising advances in medical care. Administering routine healthcare from a distance was almost unimaginable just a few years ago. Until recently, about the only telemedicine option available to patients was the ability to call your doctor’s office to get an appointment.

Through the technological advances of video conferencing and mobile phones, so much more is possible today, including virtual doctor consultations, long-distance vital sign readings, and remote medication prescriptions. This trend is likely to continue increasing, driven in part by the coronavirus pandemic and the need to keep patients and healthcare professionals safe.

Yet despite the success, there exist a number of barriers to an even greater adoption of telemedicine. Many aspects of healthcare do not fully translate in a telemedical environment or fail to meet patient confidentiality or security regulatory standards. And just how far will government agencies go to better position insurance rules to accommodate telemedicine?

We’ll look at four major obstacles that telemedicine will need to overcome in order to be fully and completely embraced by healthcare providers, policymakers, and the public:

1. Defining what telemedicine means
2. Unravelling the insurance benefit and cost conundrum
3. Addressing rural internet bandwidth concerns
4. Managing patient confidentiality and data security

Defining What Telemedicine Means

The first barrier that must be overcome is defining what telemedicine is (and isn’t). involves with regard to healthcare services, insurance coverage, and legal concerns. Varying definitions on the state and national level introduce confusion around what qualifies as telemedicine. And a lack of consistent recognition by insurers creates additional confusion around what is covered.

Defining who can remotely treat whom, and under which circumstances, while understanding how and from where payments will be submitted, is crucial to promote buy-in across the board, from medical practitioners to state medical boards to insurance carriers.

Solving the Insurance Benefit and Cost Conundrum

Establishing a telemedicine program requires a healthcare clinic, hospital, or office to invest in everything from video equipment and patient monitoring devices to software applications and technical support. It’s fairly obvious that this significant investment is only justifiable on a financial basis if virtual patient services can be billed and will be covered by the patient’s healthcare benefits.

Complicating this picture is the reactive way insurance companies process claims. Typically insurers wait for a claim to be submitted before determining how much, if any, of the claim it will pay out. Slow and tedious, this process will need to be modernised before telemedicine can reach its potential.

Addressing Rural Internet Bandwidth Concerns

The progress of telemedicine is particularly slow in rural areas where the lack of high-speed internet services compounds a shortage of medical facilities and practicing physicians. If telemedicine is to reach those outside the care of a physical doctor, it’s crucial that rural broadband access is addressed. But until this barrier to the adoption of telemedicine is overcome, thousands of patients that could benefit from telemedical services will be sitting on the sidelines.

Managing Patient Confidentiality and Data Security

Managing confidentiality and securing the contents of a telemedical session are critical in gaining a patient’s trust in the system. Regulatory requirements in many parts of the world mandate patient privacy, but those mandates may not be enough to fully protect a patient’s medical records during the course of a remote appointment. A variety of security factors must be considered.

What’s Next in Overcoming Barriers to the Adoption of Telemedicine?

While the adoption of telemedicine has been slow on the part of the healthcare industry and patients, there are signs this is changing. The pandemic that exploded in 2020 led to a dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine as both doctors and patients prioritized safety over in-person visits. Logitech solutions for healthcare extend access to care in many ways, including video technology for:

• Inpatient monitoring
• Mobile carts and telemedicine kits
• Staff training and continuing education for medical professionals
• Video conferencing rooms for administrative staff

With new, high-quality and affordable video conferencing technology and broader access to 5G networks, it seems we may be on the cusp of widespread adoption of telemedicine. Technology already makes so many of today’s life tasks easier. Telemedicine will surely have the same impact on healthcare.

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