Starting in March, healthcare organizations found themselves struggling to get ramped up on telehealth as quickly as possible. While some organizations quickly adapted and implemented telehealth (or already had it in place), other organizations have hesitated. For years, there has been resistance to telehealth. Many things have changed but some myths have remained. This article looks at some of the biggest myths and what the research really says about them.
- It is too expensive and complicated to implement. As with any new technology, there is often a fear that it will be too expensive or complicated to implement. Telehealth has actually been around for a quite a while and as reimbursement has improved so have the options available to conduct telehealth visits. It has become much more affordable and fairly easy to put in place. There is little need for specialized equipment in most cases—for providers or patients. It may be available through an existing vendor, removing the need for new contracting processes or business associate agreements. Some solutions can literally be up and running on existing equipment in a matter of days at an affordable per provider fee. It can also increase revenue and reduce costs, resulting in a return on investment.
- 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).
- Meeting with patients virtually will weaken the patient-provider relationship. Telehealth can actually improve your patient relationships. Studies show that 67 percent of patients said that using telemedicine somewhat or significantly increases their satisfaction with medical care. And in many ways, video consultations often compel the patient and provider to actually look each other in the eye. Interestingly, research seems to indicate that the existence of a screen or ‘barrier’ between both parties can actually encourage the patient to be more honest and forthcoming about issues or concerns they may have. This, in turn, improves patients’ health outcomes. In addition, telehealth actually increases the opportunity to see patients more often.
- Implementing telehealth raises the risk of malpractice lawsuits. Telemedicinecan actually decrease your risk of malpractice by adding another chance for documentation of treatment. It also facilitates follow-ups and allows you to do more frequent check-ins to make sure patients are staying on track and adhering to treatment. Whether you're an orthopedic surgeon with a full schedule of post-op appointments, or a primary care provider checking in on a patient with a virus, telemedicine gives you more points of contact.
- You can’t complete a thorough examination and give an accurate diagnosis through telehealth. Many doctors hesitate to offer virtual care, fearing poor quality visits. Fortunately, researchers have found this worry to not merit our concern. Let’s look at the stats:
- After telemedicine services were employed by the Veterans Health Administration post-cardiac arrest care program, hospital readmissions decreased by 51% for heart failure and 44% for other illnesses.
- A study of the outcomes of care for 8,000 patients who used telemedicine services found no difference between the virtual appointment and an in-person office visit.
- A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association found that teledentistry offered in nursing homes showed excellent accuracy for diagnosing dental pathology, and also allowed for more regular check-ups and early intervention/prevention.
An online assessment based on the information obtained can result in a diagnosis, including simple acute conditions, an exacerbation of a chronic condition, and management of an ongoing or known diagnosis. When additional testing is needed or the physician cannot confidently make a diagnosis via telehealth, the patient can then be referred to be seen in person.
These are not the only misconceptions about telehealth. For more research on common myths about telehealth you can download our full guide, 10 Misconceptions about Telehealth and What Research Has to Say About It.