April 14, 2023
Every industry experienced a significant disruption during the pandemic, none more so than healthcare. Hospitals were overwhelmed, clinician shortages were the norm, and social distancing impeded many patients from seeking routine care. The response to these challenges created a new opportunity for telehealth. Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was available, although limited and not always covered by insurers, but the pandemic accelerated its demand and adoption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37% of adults used telehealth in 2021.
Patient adoption of telehealth has been rapid, with many willing to use it for common illnesses, follow-up visits, talk therapy, chronic condition management, specialist visits, and physical therapy. Providers have endorsed it as well, with 80% of physicians stating that people have better access to care through telehealth services.
Telehealth has made great strides and delivered healthcare benefits such as affording many patients better access and enabling convenience. So, what does the future hold?
In 2020, there was a significant telehealth expansion for Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries issuing waivers for more types of covered services via the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) waived licensure requirements regarding technology platforms to provide easier access.
In 2022, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a report on the impact of telehealth and the future of policies tied to it. With the objective of developing evidence-based federal policy beyond the initial changes from 2020, it made these recommendations:
With the PHE for telehealth expiring on December 31, 2024, a new bill (H.R. 207) introduced in January 2023 would provide coverage for assistive telehealth consultations.
The future of telehealth hangs on coverage becoming permanent. A large part of the population has adopted telehealth and wants to continue using it. It also fills the gap in parts of the country labeled as medical deserts, meaning they have minimal access to primary care providers and specialists alike. A report found that 80% of the U.S. falls into this category. Long-term policy changes are imperative to improving access to care.
Once telehealth became critical to serving patients, there were immediate challenges with integrating it into EHR solutions. The first challenge was optimizing workflow and ensuring efficiency for these visits.
If providers use an EHR not designed for telehealth, record keeping involves a lot of manual work and switching back and forth between platforms. As a result, clinicians spend more time with technology than with patients. That’s why an integrated EHR and telehealth solution is so valuable. With such a platform, you can realize these benefits:
An integrated platform can also address concerns of security and compliance.
Because telehealth has been a target of criticism regarding the security of patient data, HHS issued guidance to providers regarding security and compliance. The directives called for clinicians to use technology products that meet HIPAA compliance regulations. Patients participate in telehealth with their own devices, which organizations cannot control. However, the security of their protected health information (PHI) on the provider side is much easier to ensure when there is integration between telehealth and EHRs.
Best practices regarding privacy, sharing secure information online, and improving security standards apply to telehealth services. For any organization, having a robust cybersecurity protocol inclusive of telehealth is critical to mitigating risks.
Telehealth offers many benefits to providers and patients. It expands access, provides convenience, and ensures patients receive timely care. For your organization to future-proof its use of telehealth, you’ll need to focus on security, compliance, and integration.
Find out how ChartLogic EHR delivers this and more by requesting a demo.