Adapting to telehealth technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on telehealth services. In 6 months, adoption has grown to a level that might otherwise have taken 10 years to reach. Although telehealth has grown by leaps and bounds, there are still major challenges to overcome.
Ensuring equitable access
To successfully adopt telehealth, healthcare providers must accommodate different levels of tech aptitude. Some patients may struggle to use technology like a gated portal, so a streamlined user experience is essential.
Internet access shouldn’t be taken for granted either. According to Pew Research Center, 10% of US adults aren’t connected to the internet at all, and older generations are the most likely to face challenges in this category.
Age is just one of the factors that links to internet adoption. A variety of social determinants—like educational attainment, household income, and community type—are also indicators of whether a person will have the ability to take part in a video conference with their health provider.
One of the benefits of expanding telehealth options is reducing the potential burden of time and money that patients might otherwise be spending on an in-person trip to the doctor. But the patients who are most burdened by these factors may also have reduced access to the internet.
The opportunity for telehealth services shouldn’t be reserved for younger generations or those who own smart devices. That’s why it’s important to remember that telehealth isn’t synonymous with videoconferencing. To overcome the digital divide, telehealth services must also be equally available by phone.
Equitable telehealth services must be able to reach people who don’t have an internet connection.
Leveraging AI for data and outreach
Cost of care and population health are both concerns that affect healthcare organizations as well as patients. Artificial intelligence (AI) can assist in bringing down the cost of care by using chatbots to create efficiencies in triage.
Although chatbots aren’t an equal substitute for in-person care or a remote visit with a primary care provider, AI can also help to address medical staff capacity, make sense of population health data, and identify patterns during a public health crisis like COVID-19.
A recent report from SecurityScorecard and DarkOwl found that increased adoption of telehealth comes with an increased risk to patient data, although these risks can be mitigated through thoughtful implementation.
Rapidly rolled out telehealth applications have become an attractive target for cybercriminals who exploit weaknesses in application security, endpoint device security, and network security.
A data breach could not only cause direct harm to patients but also undermine their confidence in telehealth or their healthcare provider.
To ensure confidence and maintain privacy, providers and patients need the following:
- Ironclad cybersecurity with vetted and enforced security protocols
- A HIPAA-compliant platform protected by appropriate legal agreements
- Access to a private physical space where no one will be overheard