Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, as many as 48% of physicians across the United States are using telehealth to treat the patients, which is an 18% increase since 2018. Technology like telehealth has proved to be a blessing to bridge the gap between patients and providers, especially in unforeseen times like these, when social distancing is mandatory.
We cannot deny the fact that telehealth, with its numerous benefits, has some challenges that are faced by providers as well as the patients.
Challenges and Their Solutions
Some of the major challenges faced by both the parties, along with their possible solutions are listed below:
Zero to Limited Internet Access
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), over 19 million Americans do not access the internet. This means providers are missing a significant number of potential patients. Those who have access to the internet face technical difficulties like bad resolution, faulty audio, and image quality due to poor internet quality, making it difficult for both sides to conduct a smooth telehealth appointment.
Healthcare providers should refer to data collected by the FCC and target the areas with patients who do not have access to the internet. They can talk to those patients through the benefits of telemedicine and convince them to opt for telehealth for their own comfort and convenience. With that, these parts of the community can be introduced to various programs like the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund and others, which will enable them to avail of internet services.
Those who have poor internet should be advised to subscribe to a better broadband provider. With that use a better web camera and microphone for a smooth telehealth session.
Compliance with Rules and Regulations
The rules and regulations are of two different levels, Federal and State. Most of the healthcare providers do not refer to the local state laws, putting the security of sensitive data on stake. With laws regarding reimbursement are making the adoption of telehealth more challenging since providers can earn more through clinical appointments than telehealth.
Choose a service provider that is compliant with the highest quality standards. Washington D.C and 29 other states have already improved the reimbursement rate making it equal to in-person services. However, providers also need to come up with additional services to their telehealth to earn extra revenue out of it. Telehealth mental health counseling, after-hours virtual care, referral discounts, and targeting patients outside the immediate neighborhood are few of the ways to generate profit through telehealth.
Lack of Digital Literacy
Lack of awareness and digital literacy is also one of the challenges, especially older patients who are not familiar with gadgets. Though the younger patients are quite familiar with computers, smartphones, and other devices, elderly patients may find it troublesome navigating through these gadgets.
Providers should give a demo through videos and also provide the patients with sufficient information regarding the telehealth program. They should try to get insights and then create an adaptive method, easy for all age groups. Tutorial videos are one of the ways to digitally literate people how to use the telehealth app or web portal to perform various actions. Optimize the patient experience and make them familiar with the whole process so that telehealth can become easier for everyone.
This can be equally challenging and frustrating for the physicians. Appointment cancellations or no-shows are inevitable. While these cancellations and no-shows can cost time and money for the providers, these can be reduced but cannot be completely eradicated.
One simple way to minimize the cancellations is to charge the fee in advance. This will reduce the number significantly. Another way to reduce no-show appointments is to choose a telehealth provider with features that will send reminder calls to the patients before their appointment. Use a telehealth service, which has innovation tools to send automated messages and calls to the patients before their appointment time, reducing the chances of no-show.
No matter how popular the physician is, patients will not be as satisfied through the virtual appointment as they are through in-person appointments. Due to this, many patients are skeptical of the idea of using telehealth services. A survey suggests that nearly half of the patients (48.7%) think that care quality in telehealth is lower than clinical visits.
Patient satisfaction can be achieved to highlight the benefits of telehealth. Tell your patients about the neglected benefits like saving of additional costs, logistics involved in clinical visits, and most importantly, minimal human contact reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19. By highlighting these, your patients will have better satisfaction through telehealth.
There is Always a Silver Lining
Though these challenges might seem tough and inevitable, there is always a solution to every problem. By following simple tips, planning everything out, and engaging patients and providers closely, these obstacles can be tackled, a solution can be achieved and telemedicine experience can be improved.