Telehealth provides a virtual pathway for patients to connect with their providers as well as other healthcare professionals. Widespread adoption of telehealth has been slow due to a number of regulatory, legal, and implementation challenges. The advent of COVID-19 has catapulted telehealth into the mainstream and forced patients and providers to test the waters at warp speed. Additionally, many of the rules and regulations were relaxed, such as requirements for the type of videoconferencing platforms and originating site restrictions. Wider coverage and reimbursement by Medicare, Medicaid, and other payers has been a significant factor for broader adoption. It is uncertain how state and federal regulations and laws will change as a result of COVID-19, but it is promising for the future since they have been field-tested. Additional research needs to evaluate telehealth to support and shape the future of virtual care.
While we continue to refine telehealth and overcome obstacles, it is clear that medicine is merging with technology to create a stronger healthcare system. Patients have already embraced wearables that track their vitals, body functions, and sleep patterns. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used in healthcare to detect and analyze large and small trends from data and even make predictions through machine learning that are designed to identify potential healthcare outcomes – making decisions with minimal human direction. Armed with such targeted analytics, it could allow doctors to better assess risk, make correct diagnoses, and offer patients more effective treatments. Meanwhile, AI, nanobots, and precision medicine dominate healthcare research. As we move into a future where technology renders many in-person visits irrelevant, it appears telehealth is here to stay as new care delivery models emerge.
For further information on the fundamentals of telehealth, visit the following websites.
|American Health Information Management Association||Telehealth Toolkit and Telehealth Webinar available|
|American Telemedicine Association||Practice Guidelines and Other Resources|
|National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers||Resource Documents, Toolkits, and Evidence for Telehealth|
|The Center for Connected Health Policy||State and National Laws and Policy Updates for Telehealth|
Authored by Cindy Ebner, MSN, RN, CPHRM, FASHRM and Colleen Harris Marzilli, PhD, DNP, MBA, RN-BC, CCM, PHNA-BC, NEA-BC, FNAP