Telehealth is quickly revolutionizing healthcare as the world struggles against the COVID-19 pandemic. The innovative service ensures the implementation of self-isolation for viral and non-viral patients, while giving them continued access to medical care from the comfort of their homes.
While telehealth has proven itself to be a valuable technology as healthcare becomes digitized, there are some concerns about its potential pitfalls.
Since telehealth services usually match a user to any regional or online doctor available, patients do not have the same relationship with the matched doctor as they do with their personal family practitioner. Patients may even be reluctant in disclosing all of the necessary information for the provider to diagnose the health issue. Ultimately, as telehealth becomes more competitive and prevalent, users will increasingly be able to communicate with doctors and nurses with whom they have had previous interactions.
The absence of a trusted patient-doctor relationship also creates obstacles for the doctor trying to diagnose the patient via telehealth. Most diagnoses are, as a result, communicated verbally or visually, instead of tangibly, hindering the doctor's capacity to ensure the most accurate analysis. Furthermore, because the patient is new to the doctor, there is inadequate data available, including pre-existing conditions. This requires spending quite some time during the teleconference to attain the background information necessary to give a proper diagnosis. Reliable data-driven services must be created or augmented to be able to collect all necessary patient information and transmit securely and rapidly to the matched doctor.
In any situation where patient data is concerned, the importance of regulation becomes critical. Currently, there are clear risks of data breaches due to the lack of regulatory policies standardized telehealth practices. This concern makes the public suspicious of using telehealth. As a result, the adoption of this service is not as widespread as it should be, revealing issues that must be addressed by health authorities in order to establish standards that govern its use.
There is a disconnect between time periods in technology and health. Mainstream technology can very quickly evolve and adapt to the changes being created by the pandemic. In a matter of weeks, most corporations were able to easily provide remote access for their employees to continue their work on laptops. In contrast, telehealth, as a newer technology, is having to play catch-up during a time when its infrastructure should be fully established and proven. As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to provide real-time front line experience driving the need to expeditiously develop standards, protections and policy in telehealth.