Healthcare News & Insights

3 obstacles in the way of telehealth benefits

Along with new opportunities for providers, telehealth also creates some new risks and challenges. 

96077341Telehealth systems allow doctors in one location to treat patients in another place — such as their home or another provider’s premises. The technology is particularly helpful for patients with trouble leaving the house, or that live it remote rural areas far from specialists.

Many hospitals are adopting telehealth programs in order to expand their patient reach, reduce readmission rates, and cut costs while improving care.

And those that are using telehealth systems have seen those and other benefits and plan to increase their adoption. Among providers using the technology, 81% plan to make additional investments in telehealth in the future, according to a recent report from research firm KLAS.

What are hospitals using telehealth technology for? The majority of organizations surveyed by KLAS were focusing on these five areas:

  1. Home monitoring for patients with chronic conditions
  2. Psychiatric evaluations and treatment
  3. Treatments and services for stroke patients
  4. Care for neurology patients, especially those with limited mobility, and
  5. Remote ICU monitoring for patients in critical conditions.

Obstacles remain

Despite those benefits, there are still some challenges that must be overcome before hospitals reap all the benefits of telehealth. These are the issues most likely to keep providers and others in the telehealth community up at night, according to an article written by lawyer René Y. Quashie:

  • State licensing and prescribing laws — If hospitals use telehealth to treat patients in multiple states, doctors have to make sure they’re complying with multiple sets of laws. Quashie cites the example of a Colorado doctor who was convicted after prescribing anti-depressant medication to a patient in California. Laws in that state require a doctor to perform a face-to-face evaluation before medication is prescribed.
  • Reimbursement — Though more private payers are starting to cover telehealth treatments, difficulty getting reimbursed through insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid may be keeping a lot of providers from adopting telehealth programs.
  • HIPAA privacy and security — When telehealth services are offered, that means more sensitive patient data is being held and transmitted electronically. Hospitals need to make sure only the right people in the organization have access to that data, and that they’re taking other steps to keep electronic health information secure.

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