COVID-19 brought telemedicine to the forefront in a big way. The pandemic forced providers to scramble and set-up telemedicine strategies on the fly to continue providing patient care. For better or for worse, this compelled providers and patients to give telemedicine a try. The industry consensus seems to be that now that the telemedicine box is open, it is here to stay. So, what does that mean for telemedicine of the future?
When looking at this coming year, a few factors will determine telemedicine's growth and pervasiveness from both the provider and patient standpoint.
The future growth of telemedicine is in large part contingent upon federal and state regulations and reimbursement strategies. During this public health emergency, CMS temporarily expanded Medicare telehealth usage, allowing beneficiaries to receive telehealth in any location, including their own homes. CMS also added 135 allowable services that beneficiaries could receive via telehealth and broadened the range of practitioners who could provide telehealth services. In August, CMS issued its proposed 2021 Physician Fee Schedule, containing new allowances and rules that, if ruled upon, will make some of the temporary regulations from PHE permanent. If CMS makes these new rules permanent, it paves the way for continued telehealth growth.
Digital workflow and EHR integration:
Aside from reimbursement, one of the most critical aspects of telemedicine for providers is how well it fits into their workflows. To provide efficient and high-quality care, physicians need telemedicine technologies to follow and complement their daily workflow. One meaningful way to ensure workflow compatibility is with EHR integration.
By ensuring that a telemedicine platform integrates within an EHR system, it gives physicians the ability to connect and provide care similarly to how they would administer and document in-person care. Integration also allows providers to chart, handle orders, and conduct video consults within the same system, creating substantial efficiency and reduction of errors.
Alongside physician expectations for telemedicine technologies, patient experience is equally as important. Patients want telemedicine consults to be easy to use and as similar to in-person visits as possible, as that is what they are used to and comfortable with. Previously, telemedicine was an underutilized service, so providers weren't concerned with a call's details since they were rarely used. Then COVID-19 hit, and there was a mad dash to simply get in contact with patients, so again, finite details were ignored. However, looking forward, with telemedicine here to stay, it is imperative to make these consults as effective and seamless for patients as possible. Easy to use interfaces, clear instructions, and intuitive user experience within the call will help ensure comfortability and improved use.
Expanded Growth into Specialty Care and Remote Monitoring:
The growth of telemedicine within primary care services and behavioral health has shown tremendous growth this year. However, telemedicine for specialty care has been slower to adopt, and the ability to provide this care, often in conjunction with other connected care devices, has considerable room for advancement. This type of telehealth has the opportunity to help reduce the rate of hospitalization, re-hospitalization and curb chronic diseases. Telehealth development within specialized care will require technology vendors to provide capabilities and features to handle the more complex needs that these various care specialties demand.
Training for clinicians and patients:
Any new technology or process requires training and education. This requirement is no different when it comes to telemedicine services. Healthcare organizations and providers need to take innovative approaches to provide efficient and adequate training to physicians and patients. This physician training needs to include using the technology within their current workflows, basics on the interface, and where to go for troubleshooting. On the patient side, pre-appointment training is essential to ensure that they can access the technology successfully at the time of their appointment. The depth of this pre-appointment prep will vary from provider to provider, but the more legwork on the front end, the more effective the telemedicine consult will be. If the technology is too hard to figure out, patients won't use it, which can be directly detrimental to their health.
This unique year and the rapid growth of telemedicine usage have given the telehealth industry the chance to make a lot of meaningful progress. There is undoubtedly a lot of potential on the horizon to leverage technology to enhance patient care, experience, and accessibility.
Optimum Healthcare IT has experienced technology resources to help quickly scale your telehealth capabilities to provide care virtually or at other points of care. We offer services to help ensure that both patients and providers can successfully navigate and use patient portals, telehealth applications, and other digital health services. Whether assisting patients with enrolling in your portal, scheduling virtual visits, or supporting providers and patients as they prepare for telehealth encounters, Optimum can help ensure that your health system gets maximum value from virtual patient care capabilities.