The Barriers and Benefits of Telehealth

What Are The Biggest Barriers to Telehealth Implementation?

According to studies by HIMSS Analytics and Vidyo, the 5 greatest barriers to telehealth implementation are:

  1. Cost of implementation

  2. Complexity of implementation and use

  3. Reimbursement structure cost

  4. Disadvantages compared to face-to-face interactions

  5. Problems with lack of existing infrastructure

Providers considering adopting telehealth to their offerings must balance the benefits it offers to the practice and its patients against the barriers to adoption. However, provider telehealth use has risen to an adoption rate of 71%, according to two 2017 research reports from HIMSS Analytics.

“Adoption of telemedicine solutions and services has surged since this study was first conducted in 2014 from roughly 54 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2017,” said the reports. “After consistently growing 3.5 percent annually, based on study results adoption has increased roughly 9 percent since 2016.”

It is interesting to note that the HIMSS Analytics research found that the largest proportion (30 percent) of telehealth users consisted of single or two-person practices. Practices of more than 101 physicians made up just 24 percent of groups using telehealth.

The Good News: Expectation vs. Reality

People tend to expect the worst; in fact, the old saying of, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” makes good business sense. So the confusion and uncertainty around telehealth functionality and technology is well deserved.

There is good news. In a survey of 300 clinical and IT professionals by Vidyo, which provides a telehealth platform, more providers anticipated telehealth barriers than they actually experienced. The survey identified these anticipated barriers as:

  1. Cost of implementation
  2. Complexity of implementation and use
  3. Reimbursement structure cost
  4. Disadvantages compared to face-to-face interactions
  5. Problems with lack of existing infrastructure

Reducing Healthcare Disparities

The Vidyo survey identified the four top reasons patients are receptive to telehealth as:

  • Ease of use
  • Flexibility
  • Minimizing time off work
  • More hours of service availability

Yet there is another reason that patients are embracing telehealth, particularly those in rural and underserved areas. Specialists tend to cluster in urban areas, where there is a large patient pool as well as large health systems, which provide opportunities for teaching, research and collaboration

However, there are numerous patients located in rural or underserved areas who need their services to cope with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart failure and COPD. In fact, the lack of access to quality healthcare and specialists can result in declining health

That’s where telehealth comes in; it brings together the doctor and patient regardless of where each is located. Specialists can increase the number of patients they serve without extensive travel, and patients get the care they need without taking time off from work or a lengthy car drive.

This reasoning was behind a landmark program in two of Georgia’s neediest school districts. Azalea Health provided the EHRs that are used by school nurses. Using the integrated telehealth capabilities, the school nurses can schedule consultations with local pediatricians and remote specialists, all without parents having to leave work. The patient information in the EHR can also be shared among the school nurse, primary care physician and specialist.

 

 

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