When it comes to hot trends, virtual healthcare is currently topping the list with consumers, providers, and insurers alike. However, this fast-rising care delivery channel still faces challenges that will need to be addressed for virtual healthcare to become fully mainstream. Here are the three topping the list:
With the increase in virtual healthcare, there is also an increase in the amount of data that is not only incredibly valuable to providers, but also potentially vulnerable to cyberattack, and in need of additional protection. These include patient medical records, insurance information, and billing information. Currently, telemedicine requires that health data is shared, viewed, and stored as electronically protected health information (ePHI). ePHI comes under the scope of protected health information (PHI), and is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule. Developing kryptonite-strong security measures to fight off potentially catastrophic data breaches is a top concern and ongoing challenge.
With virtual healthcare, patients have more control over their care. Depending on the patient, this is a good thing and a bad thing. Engaging patients in their own care can be complex when they are not physically present in the doctor’s office. Virtual healthcare providers need new methods to keep patients engaged in their care plan and treatment. Some patients feel empowered and take advantage of all the options available, while others may feel overwhelmed. Healthcare organizations are working to provide clear guidance and best practices for patients to keep them engaged and help them make the best decisions for their care. Patient engagement methods include appointment reminders, educational materials, and follow-up calls or emails.
In an industry already plagued with post-Pandemic burnout, the increase in demand for virtual healthcare services may provide yet another challenge to overcome. Providers may feel overwhelmed from seeing patients back-to-back with little time for breaks in between. To prevent provider burnout, healthcare organizations are looking to implement systems that allow for provider self-care, including intervals between appointments, scheduling time for charting outside of appointment times, and having strong support systems in place.
While these three areas are top challenges we can expect to see discussed and addressed in telemedicine this year, other challenges will likely continue to bubble to the surface, including:
- Interoperability. For virtual healthcare to be successful, interoperability between different systems needs to be successful. It affects the ability to schedule appointments, send and receive messages, share files, and access patient medical records.
- Technology challenges. Virtual healthcare relies on technology to function. If there are technical issues, it can disrupt the delivery of care. Technical issues include audio or video problems, internet connectivity, and software glitches. It is crucial for healthcare organizations to plan to resolve any technical problems.
- Quality of care. When providing care virtually, there is a risk of lower quality of care than if the patient was in the clinic. Virtual visits are often shorter, and there is less time to build a rapport with the patient. To ensure that patients receive the best possible care, healthcare organizations need to set quality standards and best practices for making the most of virtual visits.
- Accessibility. Not all patients have access to the internet or a computer. To provide care to all patients, healthcare organizations need to have a plan for reaching those who do not have access to virtual healthcare—providing internet-enabled devices, partnering with local organizations, or offering transportation assistance.
Virtual healthcare is no doubt here to stay, and it is essential for insurance agents, brokers, and independent insurance agents to be aware of its challenges. By understanding the challenges, you can be better prepared to help their clients navigate the virtual healthcare landscape.