Six Telemedicine Concerns Plaguing Health Industry

April 16, 2020

The use of telemedicine has increased rapidly; leading to increased satisfaction and positive operations in healthcare. However, it's implementation also carries some concerins. Here's how to steer clear of them.

The use of telemedicine is growing rapidly among hospitals and physicians across the country. It promotes better patient care and has greater access to medical services. Telemedicine also promises to empower consumers with more information and control over their healthcare decisions than ever before. According to a report, 67% of patients mentioned using telemedicine has significantly increased their satisfaction with medical care.

From presenting providers with a list of options for where and how they can treat their patients, telemedicine is the harbinger of new opportunities, but its implementation also carries certain concerns.

Listed below are few telemedicine concerns that you’ll want to be proactive in identifying and resolving for successfully implementing telemedicine in your healthcare practice.

1. Tricky policies and reimbursement rules
Getting reimbursed for telehealth services can be tricky. The guidelines vary depending upon the payer and constantly changing state policies. It also highly depends upon your state, services, practice, and the third-party payer. The state policies continuously experience change as many more healthcare providers jump on the telemedicine bandwagon.

Related: Use Of Telehealth Services Increases Amid Pandemic

To be precise, many physicians charge a convenience fee for the patient, ranging from $30 to $130 per visit. The payment is straight from the patient’s pocket. Here are a few telemedicine billing guidelines to help you navigate reimbursement for doctors practice:

  • You can determine the type of healthcare service. As there are a number of telemedicine services available, you can choose services such as live video or store and forward solutions that will affect how you will bill and how you get reimbursed. For example, Medicare reimburses for live video, but not for store and forward in the majority of states.

  • Explicate your use case while paying a visit to the patient. For this you need to specify whether you will be using telemedicine to check-in with patients after hospital discharge. Will you be using telemedicine for minor acute conditions like infections? When you prepare such specific use cases researching the reimbursement gets easier.

  • To be eligible for reimbursement, the patient requires to be in virtual care located within a Health Professional Shortage Area (HSPA). Patients can further type their address on this CMS tool to know what health facility is in a HSPA.

2. Low-grade equipment causing miscommunication
Telemedicine demands clear communication in real-time between you and your patients as well as other medical professionals involved with the patient. As a low-grade equipment can cause miscommunication which increases the chances for misdiagnosis. This may result in poor patient outcomes and along with it liability also comes at risk.

To avoid such circumstances, consult a qualified IT professional prior to making your equipment or software selection. You can choose someone who is familiar with telemedical systems and is available to deliver regular service along with maintenance.

Miscommunication is also possible, affecting interpersonal relations not only between care provider and patient but also between the team members. Your staff must understand how to use equipment and should be capable of addressing any problem.

3. Insurance policy concerns
Insurance coverage impacts any telehealth implementation. So prior to visiting remote patients, make sure your policy includes certain liability as per the jurisdiction in the concerned area to implement telemedicine services.

  • Liability of product
    You require specialized equipment for telemedicine concerns as any instrument can fail at any time. You will have to be covered against issues of liability of the product which can be originating from faulty or malfunctioning devices.

  • Liability of profession
    Be sure to discuss your telehealth offerings in detail with your insurance agent. They can provide you with professional applicable coverage that your standard policy might not cover.

  • Insurance of cyber liability
    Cyber attacks targeting your health practice can cause you thousands or millions of dollars. Notify your patients of issues regarding a breach and also provide them with identity theft offerings. However, in doing so, it can cost you around $400 to $600 per record.
    Further, things like business interruptions and legal fees are also to be considered in cyber liability. When any cybersecurity incident occurs, this insurance policy could mean a difference between a quick recovery and getting out of the business.

4. Proper technical training to handle patients
Restructuring the roles of your staff and buying equipment takes time and costs money. Training is crucial when you build a telehealth platform. Practice managers, physicians or any medical staff should be trained on the new systems to ensure a solid ROI in your business.

When you train your staff regarding all the tools and services on your telehealth platform, there are chances that you do not require a large crew. For instance, a nurse who is skilled and has received proper training can serve up to 33 patients at once from a single location through the telemedicine services.

5. Lack of connectivity
Telehealth connections are not like the leads required for traditional business conferences where you can withstand some low quality and muddle through it. In healthcare, a poor quality connection is a total deal breaker.

Remote patients or physicians located in places where broadband service isn't secure or affordable may require access to resources to provide adequate broadband for telehealth facilities.

Speaking of broadband, it includes high-speed transmission. These transmission types include cable modem, digital subscriber line fiber, wireless that includes Wi-Fi or cellular wireless, satellite as well as broadband over powerlines. Telehealth applications commonly come in use via wireless broadband connections like 3G/4G cellular or Wi-Fi.

While many telehealth services require a standard of 1.5 Mbps for both upload and download speeds to effectively view audio and video details, for instance, in cases of cardiac care, where there is a lot of imagery or graph analysis involved. Yet, you cannot hide away from broadband shortage and shortcomings of bad connectivity in rural areas.

Understanding the kind of broadband access for patients as well as remote care facilities outside the hospitals, can help healthcare executives. They can take measures to provide telehealth services with networking tools for those without sufficient signals.

6. Concerns related to physician burnout
Experienced as a lack of excitement for work and a minimal sense of personal accomplishment, burnout can lead to poor work performance and, eventually can cause some physicians to quit medicine. Not to mention, an electronic health record (EHR) can help organize patients’ records online, but has also become a source of annoyance for physicians who spend more and more time on the system inserting details than they spend having face-to-face medical encounters.

To steer clear of such obstacles, physicians can use digital tools such as clinical connect or a video remote interpreter to improve patient care while simplifying work flows. Clinical connect tools can help physicians connect with available specialists for consultation. Similarly, video remote interpreter helps to connect doctors with on-demand interpreters in more than 27 languages, including American Sign language.

While there are many obstacles that may give us pause, we have already seen some positive results of the implementation of telemedicine services. By knowing all about technologies available and making wise decisions to incorporate it, doctors can achieve improved results in practice and experience satisfied loyal patients.

Rahul Varshneya is co-founder of Arkenea. Varshneya has been featured as a technology thought leader in numerous media channels such as Bloomberg TV, Forbes, HuffPost, Inc, among others.