Healthcare as a whole, not just Telemedicine, is a field surrounded by skepticism and caution when it comes to innovation. This common position is not unwarranted – maintaining health (or providing it) is an extremely important and highly expensive necessity.
It’s a slow market. So many doctors and patients are still hesitant to try it out. Sometimes, however, there is a catalyst – much like COVID-19 has been for Telemedicine. At some point, there was simply no other way to increase the capacity of the clinic other than going online. After this trial by fire, it’s safe to say that Telemedicine is here to stay, as it provides a lot of value both for the doctors and the patients.
That’s why it’s important to have a clear picture of what Telemedicine really is, what it can provide, and what it cannot. Let’s do some myth-busting!
In theory, almost any system connected to the internet can be breached. In reality, however, the odds are so incredibly low, this fear can be dismissed altogether.
Any professional Telemedicine provider is HIPAA compliant and has to use fully encrypted data transmission. Such means are necessary to ensure that your data simply cannot be intercepted and collected. Beware of Telemedicine solutions that attempt to provide contact via Skype, Facetime, or other more commonly used video chat solutions that are not HIPAA-compliant, as these are non-secure services (or rather, not AS secure).
As a standard, a fully-fledged Telemedicine solution should provide full data encryption for any incoming and outgoing traffic, 2-step authentication to secure the login process, and rigorous database protection protocols.
In a very unlikely event of a data breach happening, a HIPAA-compliant Telemedicine provider is bound to face extremely severe charges if neglect to security is registered. This is the last thing any Telemedicine provider would be willing to go through.
Telemedicine is more cost-efficient, both for the patient and the provider.
Of course, this is a general assessment. Some conditions absolutely require to be on-site in order to receive treatment. It may be a whole different story for the Telehealth provider when it comes to operational costs of built or integrated Telemedicine solution, too.
Myth partially debunked.
You wouldn’t want to lose your records after a Telemedicine visit, that’s for sure. Every major (or well-made) Telehealth platform is capable of either integrating with the EMR systems or generating a record that can be imported into your EMR.
The real question here is how seamless this process is made for the patient and their doctor. Ideally, it’s a two-way connection that is capable of quickly and efficiently updating the EMR with all the necessary data via a single input (instead of making separate records in the Telehealth solution and then the EMR) during the doctor visit.
This myth is one of the most common among patients. While it really depends on the situation, a specialist would be able to determine if an on-site examination is required during the online visit. What is required of the patient is the history and the list of experienced symptoms. Performing this online does not detract from the accuracy or usefulness of the examination in any way.
Of course, some basic examinations might be more difficult to perform compared to others, e.g: a skin rash will be easier to spot on a web camera as opposed to trying to examine ears or throat. The healthiest stance on the matter is provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): online physical examinations are recommended to be followed by a timely in-person visit.
So it’s safe to say that physical examination can be provided at the very least to determine if an on-site visit is necessary.
It is, but it depends on your insurance company policies, as well as federal and state laws. At the moment, a good number of states have private insurers cover telehealth services. There are more states in the process of considering or undergoing legislation. Some states made exceptions for certain insurance plans to be available for Telehealth coverage.
As for the payment amounts, depending on the state law, the same amount is paid by the insurer for the remote visit as it would be for an in-person visit.
For Medicare users, it is advised to check the Medicare website for additional and up-to-date information on the matter, as regulations constantly change.
Overall, the insurance coverage of Telehealth providers is a complex topic at the moment, highly dependent on the state, its laws, and the policies of your insurer. It is highly recommended to get in touch with your insurer beforehand and learn what can be covered and what cannot in your state.
Myth partially debunked
Again, this depends on the state in question. Generally, doctors can write your prescription for common illnesses, allergies, and so forth. So long as you’re consulting with a certified doctor, a prescription made for you is no different than the one you would receive in-person.
There are some restrictions, of course, when it comes to prescriptions. Here are the things that doctors cannot provide a prescription for:
Thus, in most common cases, a certified doctor will be able to write your prescription.
Unless it’s an emergency, most Telehealth platforms offer to choose and make repeat visits to the same doctor you’ve chosen. On top of that, doctors have profiles with detailed information about their experience, expertise, and much more.
A rather conservative outlook on Telemedicine, and is likely projected on other faucets of IT in healthcare as well. It’s best to do something you’re used to and know what to expect from, right? Because of that, Telehealth solutions are not used until deemed absolutely necessary, which may be too late to take full advantage of its benefits.
Only through raising awareness of what Telemedicine is and the benefits it brings it will be possible to dissuade the public of its stigma as an unreliable, temporary replacement for real healthcare, provided in-person.
Telemedicine is by no means a last-resort solution, and shouldn’t be treated as such. On the contrary, it should be deemed as something to try out first, before committing to going to the doctor’s office personally. It is both quicker and most cost-efficient.
What will be the challenge of using Telemedicine for a senior user, when the TV remote is a struggle all in itself? A lot of new information for a senior user can (and probably will) be overwhelming at first. However, none of this is impossible.
Good telemedicine solutions adhere to good user experience practices – such as reducing the number of clicks to execute target function, clarity of interface text, and so on. In some instances, the lack of the requirement to register for a doctor visit can be a great boon for an aging population, as it eliminates a highly complicated step from the way.
Thus, it really depends on the Telemedicine provider whether it is better suited for use by seniors or not.
Myth partially debunked
Highly unlikely. Previously, Telemedicine’s growth was hindered by state and government laws, as is just about any emerging technology in healthcare.
At the same time, telemedicine was there before COVID-19 took place, and it will persist after the pandemic ends. That’s not the last pandemic humanity will endure, and 2020 has shown the benefits and many uses Telemedicine can have in our lives. So long as governments continue to view Telemedicine progressively, it will eventually get rid of its problems and continue to provide better service to customers – providing care to remote areas, reducing costs, improving data management and so much more.
Myths are born of fear and a lack of knowledge on the matter. Myths stick to domains that are complicated, ridden with laws, and at the same time highly sensitive to public opinion. Healthcare, by far, is probably one of the most difficult industries to advance in, and yet, 2020 has proved that progress will be made when it’s necessary. Telemedicine’s benefits by far outweigh its drawbacks, and it will only continue to grow in the future.
Contrast to myths, you can take a look at our real-life telemedicine software development cases.