IT Agility Is Needed to Take Advantage of Rapid Growth of Telehealth
Healthcare information technology is likely to take center stage in the field of telehealth in the coming months.
Regulatory Uncertainty Will Continue to Exist
Telehealth was one of the most prominent beneficiaries of the response to Covid-19. It was proved to deliver safe and rapid access to healthcare for millions of people.
But now the vaccination program is being rolled out, many states are rolling back on the relaxation of rules that made the rapid transformation to telehealth possible.
It’s true that we have seen some regulatory changes made permanent – such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ expansion of reimbursable telehealth codes for the 2021 physician fee schedule – but many services could lose their waiver status when the public health emergency is declared over.
Telehealth Will Remain Popular
It is difficult to envisage that healthcare will return to pre-Covid usage. Research from McKinsey & Company found that:
- 40% of consumers plan to continue to use telehealth solutions in the future
- 58% of physicians now view telehealth more favorably than they did prior to the pandemic
- In April 2021, 84% of physicians were offering virtual visits, and 57% would prefer to continue to offer this service
The sector is innovating rapidly, with self-diagnostics, experimentation with hybrid models, and primary and specialty care now offered. With strong demand for telehealth services from both patients and providers, it seems likely that we will continue to see expansion of the sector. McKinsey & Company has estimated that as much as $250 billion of current U.S. healthcare spending could be diverted to telehealth. Compare this to the $3 billion spending on telehealth pre-pandemic, and you get an idea of just how big the sector has now become.
However, stabilizing and growing telehealth services in your business will not be without its challenges.
Waivers Replaced by Barriers?
Many telehealth appointments are conducted over state lines, but as states roll back on waivers, this is becoming impossible for many. For example, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore recently had to tell more than 1,000 patients in Virginia that they could no longer provide telehealth appointments.
As Telehealth Grows, Expect Regulation to Evolve
There are several laws that regulate the use of personal information in telehealth. These include:
- The Privacy Act of 1974, which regulates information collected by the federal government and its agencies. The legislation allows citizens to know what information is collected about them, assure the veracity of that data, and obtain copies of the information.
- The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, which regulates Health IT including safety and security of information exchange.
- HIPAA, which gives patients control over how their health records are used.
- The 21st Century Cures Act, which will clarify HIPAA privacy rules and focus on:
- Health IT usability
- Conditions of certification
- Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement
- Health Information Technology Advisory Committee
- Identifying reasonable and necessary activities that do not constitute information blocking
Health Information Technology: Your Biggest Concern?
The big concern for providers must be how to ensure their systems and healthcare information technology remains compliant in a system in which healthcare regulations are evolving rapidly. You will need to ensure that:
- Data integration and data flow does not overwhelm your technology
- Your workflows between virtual and in-person activities are integrated, especially to enable hybrid models of care
As you do so, all your integrated systems must remain updated with new and changing regulations – or you face falling foul of compliance issues and damaging your business.
Agility is required, and this is not always provided by in-house IT teams. You need specific expertise when it is required. Employing a full-time employee to respond with their expertise on a part-time or ad-hoc basis is not feasible. So how do you respond and adapt to changing regulations in a timely, cost-effective, and efficient manner?
Contact Gravity IT Resources today. We’ll be happy to discuss the benefits to your business when partnering with our consultancy services.