Telehealth in the Era of COVID-19

Whether uploading food logs into a mobile app or ordering medications online, telehealth capabilities have grown in popularity and demand in recent decades. With ICU beds and other resources stretched thin because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the “hospital at home” model has become an important tool for both patients and providers, especially those in rural or isolated areas.

Often described as the future of healthcare, telehealth refers to both technologies that fall under ‘telemedicine’ and electronic patient-to-provider interactions. Telehealth capabilities have been expanded through smartphone apps, activity trackers, and medical devices that can collect and transmit health information. Proponents of virtual care cite more convenient scheduling, avoidance of stressful waiting rooms, and no travel time. 

The rapidly growing telemedicine market was projected to cross $64 billion by 2025 in the US, and $32 million by 2020 in India. In light of the coronavirus crisis, however, the US figure may now breach $130 billion and, in India, telemedicine apps have seen an increase of over 178% in remote consultations for flu-like symptoms.

This rapid expansion of telehealth has been a positive development in a number of ways, especially for remote communities, and for the long-term monitoring of chronic conditions. Nevertheless, replacing brick-and-mortar healthcare institutions highlights a variety of policy challenges, including privacy concerns, licensure issues, and a lack of broadband connectivity. Demographic factors are another obstacle. Although older generations are considered to be one of the groups who could most benefit from telehealth services, a Pew Research survey found that 27% of US adults over the age of 65 do not use the internet.

In regards to the secure transmission of patient information, many have expressed concerns following a decision by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to modify its enforcement discretion. This temporary policy change will allow providers to use additional communication modes, including FaceTime and Skype, to deliver telehealth services during the COVID-19 crisis. These applications may not be fully compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and could set a precedent for fewer telehealth security safeguards in a post-pandemic environment.

All things considered, the methods by which people receive medical care are rapidly evolving. To keep up with the ever-changing world, OpenEyes stands ready to assist companies with strategic IT consulting and management services during the transition to virtual communications. Just as a doctor puts the needs of their patients first, OpenEyes prioritizes its clients in a secure, flexible, and professional manner.

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