Telehealth is a trend that is here to stay. A recent report from The Joint Commission offers guidance on the use and challenges of remote healthcare.
The delivery of remote healthcare was growing slowly, but consistently, before 2020. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telehealth rose dramatically as patients and providers sought ways to connect in the new era of social distancing. In April 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provided an emergency waiver to physicians for the use of telehealth. As more providers and patients become comfortable with a remote platform, telehealth visits continue to increase.
In October, The Joint Commission issued guidance to providers on using telehealth. There is no concern that telehealth will replace an office visit in some cases. Complex and chronic illnesses require in-person follow-up. It is not clear how often serious conditions may be missed on a video call and result in a dangerous delayed diagnosis. In other cases, telehealth may allow a physician to more closely follow a patient, and give that patient better access to healthcare guidance.
Some key points offered by The Joint Commission on providing virtual healthcare services include the following:
- Through social distancing, telehealth reduces the opportunity for COVID-19 spread. Remote services provide important help to quarantined patients. Using a remote platform, quarantined providers can continue to “see” patients. In addition, telehealth reduces the use of PPE. At any time, telehealth has an impact on the provision of services to patients who have difficulties with transportation to a physician’s office.
- Telehealth depends on a stable, HIPAA-compliant platform that is easily understood and used by both the patient and provider. In some underserved areas, internet infrastructure is insufficient to provide effective telehealth service.
- The development of remote triage and treatment standards is essential to avoid medical errors and unseen complications that arise through the use of a virtual platform.
The use of virtual healthcare service is in its infancy. While current platforms may try to replicate the waiting and exam room experience, the creative capabilities of telehealth remain to be seen—as do its dangers. Remember, this is a substitute for an in person exam, which is the most effective way to evaluate patients.
Remote healthcare, along with patient access to their electronic health record (EHR,) give patients tools to become better involved in their own healthcare. Yet it remains the domain and responsibility of each healthcare provider to provide a standard of care equivalent to an in-person, hands-on office visit. If you, or a family member, suffers serious injury after seeking medical care, speak with our legal team.
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