As 2020 stormed in, bringing the COVID-19 pandemic with it, life as we knew it quickly shifted. For those in healthcare, one of those big shifts included the sudden widespread need for telehealth services. And while some practices quickly adapted and implemented telehealth (or already had it in place), other organizations were not as sure. For years, there has been resistance to telehealth based on misconceptions and myths surrounding the practice. In this piece, we will discuss ten of the biggest myths and show what the research really says about them.
10 Biggest Telehealth Myths
- Patients don’t want to use telehealth outside of the medical industry. This is simply not true. Studies conducted in virtually every healthcare specialty show that patients are wanting remote visits. This includes dentistry and eye care. A 2019 study found that 78 percent of people say they are likely to use some form of teledentistry within the following five years and around 70 percent are interested in virtual eye care visits. These numbers have only grown as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and patients were staying away from healthcare offices.
- Senior citizens aren’t comfortable with telehealth. We tend to underestimate the tech savvy level of our senior citizens. According to the 2019 Senior Consumer Study, the majority of seniors say they would like to use telehealth. Unfortunately, they’re simply not being offered telehealth as an option—a meager one percent of those over age 65 have ever had a virtual doctor visit. This means that around 25 million Americans over the age of 65 are willing to use telehealth but don’t have the option. According to studies, seniors believe telehealth can deliver faster, more convenient care. In addition, they say that telehealth would help them save time (58 percent), money (54 percent), and gain better access to providers (53 percent).
- Telehealth is not secure. Unless you are hopping on a Facebook Live feed and trying to treat anyone who shows up, the security of your telehealth visits is not something to be concerned about. All reputable telehealth platforms are HIPAA compliant and engineered with top-level security. If you're at all concerned about security risk, have your vendor walk you through their protocols. You can then do the same for any patients who express concern. Or better yet, communicate the safety of telehealth to patients when you start offering it as an option.
- Policies and regulations are too strict. Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislative picture was becoming more favorable to remote healthcare. And once the pandemic became a public health emergency, certain federal privacy regulations were relaxed and payment policies expanded. Many are calling for regulations to continue to allow more access to telehealth. Journalists and researchers have begun to explore the increased value of telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic has waned. In fact, some have suggested that continued adoption and use of telehealth could help hospitals buffer the losses due to the coronavirus, due in part to the waivers that the federal government has instituted. While the future of policies and regulations remain to be seen, there are positive indications that this pandemic has loosened at least some telehealth regulations for good.
- Using telehealth is not cost effective. On the contrary, telehealth can actually raise your compensation levels significantly. Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association explained, “We (now) have an opportunity to start documenting and cataloguing these cost savings,” Johnson said. “There are plenty of instances where we are saving a lot of money.” The Geisinger Health Plan study found that implementation of a telemedicine program generated about 11 percent in cost savings during that study period. This led to an estimated return on investment of about $3.30 in cost savings for every $1 spent on program implementation. Beyond the obvious, there are other ways that telehealth can boost revenue. Think about it—how much time have you spent on uncompensated after-hours calls? On prescription refills? All of these calls can actually be reimbursed as telehealth visits.
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