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Telehealth: The Transformation of Healthcare Services

October 5, 2020 | Lindsay Lowe

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a digital healthcare evolution. Telehealth services and digital health platforms have become increasingly popular, easing the transition from traditional in-office visits to video and audio visits. Within a matter of months, COVID-19 rapidly transformed the delivery of healthcare services, making healthcare more accessible.

While telehealth is currently trending, telehealth services have been around for ages. Historically, there were many barriers in place that limited widespread adoption of telehealth. Yet, amid the pandemic, state and federal governments have temporarily relaxed the laws surrounding telehealth practices, which led to the expansion of telehealth. 

Considering our technological developments, it is only natural to implement the use of telehealth services and digital health platforms. Creating delivery systems that are more patient-centered and use technology to increase access to quality care, will decrease cost and help providers manage an ever-increasing volume of information and relationships.

In efforts to remain sustainable and competitive amid the everchanging healthcare market, providers must update their operating systems. Healthcare organizations must implement the appropriate infrastructure to support telehealth platforms, and examine the automation, orchestration, and personalization of patient care journeys. Ultimately, providers will be tasked with considering the best approach for telehealth implementation within their practices and systems.  To better serve patients and protect employees, some healthcare systems have included an AI chatbot, a texting solution, pandemic health workers, and home-based care with remote monitoring. 

As patients and providers become familiarized with the use of digital healthcare platforms, providers should be mindful of malpractice concerns, as there is an increased risk of misdiagnosis, software malfunction, and miscommunication.

Providers must be vigilant and ensure effective virtual visits. This includes not only educating patients on what their telehealth visit consists of, but also providing  informed consent, detailing any potential risks associated with the telehealth services, as well as the security measures involved. Additionally, providers must also consider long-term solutions to prevent data breaches of protected health information. Lastly, providers must accurately document the virtual healthcare visit and maintain proper patient records, as adequate medical record documentation ensures patient confidentiality and standards of care are met, which safeguards providers against liability for failure to comply with the same.

As providers become more equipped at mitigating malpractice risks across telehealth platforms, the benefits of increasing access to care across various digital platforms will lead to more opportunities for healthcare advancement.

Even now, as states are in varied phases of re-opening, the question still remains as to whether healthcare systems will sustain the digital momentum spurred by COVID-19. It is clear that there is a need for telehealth services. Likewise, there are nationwide benefits to telehealth services, as digital health platforms bridge the gap between providers and patients. Telehealth has promoted access to care for vulnerable populations and patients residing in rural areas. It has expanded access to mental health counselors and normalized the use of digital health platforms for behavioral health services. 

While there many factors that impact the rate of telehealth growth and sustainability, there is no mistaking the uptick in use of telehealth services and digital health platforms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.