The COVID pandemic taught us a lot about the state of modern healthcare in America. It quickly revealed as many weaknesses as strengths. In terms of telemedicine, we learned that it could be utilized to provide high quality care. Yet we also learned it is not the panacea so many make it out to be. To say that there is room for improvement is an understatement.
Overall, telehealth solutions performed quite well from the start of the pandemic through the end of 2021. They performed well enough that growing numbers of hospitals, healthcare groups, and individual providers have decided to push forward with telemedicine options. But in doing so, they have four big problems that need to be addressed.
Those four problems were revealed by a recent Health Net survey of nearly one hundred California providers. Here they are:
1. Patient Access Issues
A stunning 82% of the survey respondents said that their patients had trouble with access. That could mean just about anything, but respondents cited things like lack of internet access and a lack of technology. The findings may seem strange at a time in history when so many people rely on internet technology to do so many things. But stop and think for just a minute.
Older Americans were the most likely to avoid in-office visits even after hospitals and clinics began reopening. These are the same people who struggle the most with digital technologies. It is to be expected that they would have trouble with telehealth just because technology isn’t their thing.
2. Learning the Technology
Next up, some 24% said their patients had trouble learning the technology required to power telemedicine solutions. These are patients who had access to the internet. They had devices capable of connecting. However, they lacked the knowledge to use the technology to their advantage.
Here’s where companies like CSI Health have an advantage. CSI Health designs and manufactures portable telemedicine packages, medical kiosks, and other telehealth solutions. They say the key to moving forward is finding ways to improve the user interface so that everything from virtual health screenings to well checkups is as easy as making a phone call.
3. Office Visit Preferences
Approximately 12% of the survey respondents said that their patients who declined telemedicine services did so because they preferred in-office visits. This is to be expected. There will always be that core group that would rather visit with their doctor’s face-to-face than settle for consulting through a video screen. This isn’t necessarily a problem per se, but it doesn’t hurt to speak with patients to find out why they feel the way they do. If a provider could do something minor to change a patient’s mind, doing it might be worthwhile.
4. Privacy Concerns
The last of the four big problems is the concern over privacy. You might be surprised to learn that just 7% of the survey respondents cited this particular issue. In a day and age in which we are constantly hearing about cyber security threats, it would seem that more people would be hesitant to use telemedicine. But that not being the case is good news to both the healthcare industry and those that design and build the technology.
The four things described in this post will ultimately determine the direction of telemedicine over the coming months and years. If telemedicine is to truly become the future of healthcare delivery, the number one problem we have to address is accessibility. We need a more robust internet infrastructure along with digital devices that are affordable, reliable, and secure.