Telehealth video conferencing has grown significantly over the past few years since it is accessible, convenient and affordable while still offering high-quality healthcare service. But it also faces challenges as the technology expands. So what are these challenges, and how to solve them? Let’s discuss this.
What Is Telehealth Video Conferencing?
Telehealth video conferencing is a tool that helps patients access medical care without leaving the comfort of their homes or offices. And the same applies to doctors — they can provide virtual telehealth visits regardless of location through smartphones, laptops and other devices. Telehealth also refers to mHealth remote services. Finally, because telehealth provides much flexibility for doctors and patients, it has many benefits. Here are some of them.
Patients can use telehealth from anywhere in the world as long as they are connected to the internet. It means no need to commute to get medical treatment and easier access to healthcare for developing countries.
Patients no longer have to go to the doctor’s office. Instead, they can call or email their doctor whenever they need their consultation. Telehealth also allows scheduling appointments online instead of waiting in line at a clinic for a visit, medication refill or other healthcare services.
As a patient, you save on the commute to the clinic and only need to install the app developed for online communication. And for the clinics, the cost of a telemedicine system is more favorable as they get to reduce expenses related to emergency room visits and hospital stays.
While the benefits of video conferencing in telemedicine are persuasive, the biggest push for the growth and popularization of mHealth remote services was the global Covid-19 pandemic.
A study reports that the percentage of virtual doctor visits in the US has grown from 0.1% pre-pandemic to 43.5% after Covid-19 spread. And 84% of online visits end up addressing and resolving patients’ health concerns to a full extent.
But despite the rapid growth, the telehealth field is still novel, and the technologies are evolving. That provokes many challenges that providers and users must catch up on when adopting and actively using telemedicine solutions.
Top 3 Telemedicine Software Challenges (With Solutions)
As with any other emerging field, telehealth is experiencing many challenges. Lack of trust in the technology, privacy concerns and some patients’ poor technical skills are the burning obstacles to the growth of mHealth. But there are some potential solutions to each of these.
1. Lack of Trust in Telehealth Services
One of the most significant challenges in the current healthcare tech market preventing a more rapid adoption of mHealth and telehealth services is the need for more patient trust. And while younger generations are more open to trying out new services, older people are very reluctant and suspicious of those.
There are several reasons for the need for more trust in technology to have occurred. First, the elderly consider it new and unfamiliar, even though they are one of the demographic groups that need healthcare services most frequently and would greatly benefit from telehealth.
Then, the tech market is experiencing a significant decrease in trust over the past ten years, both globally and in the US alone. That is associated with various factors, like spreading false information online, the lack of trust in the government’s ways of using data, and privacy concerns, which we will discuss later.
Additionally, there have been some concerns regarding the trustworthiness of the online world. In particular, 65% of respondents worry that it will soon become impossible to distinguish between what is real and what is not among what they access via technology.
In terms of mHealth, the point above leads to worry about whether the specialist behind that side of the screen has an excellent professional background or is simply a fraud. Moreover, this fear is enhanced by the lack of human contact that virtual services limit, creating a feeling of distance and decreasing confidence and trust in the doctor-patient relationship.
So, these changes have reduced trust in technology like telehealth video conferencing. And this adds to the existing hesitation regarding the reliance on tech for use in various areas of life.
According to Edelman’s research on trust in the tech sector, users can rely on particular solutions if they understand their benefits and downsides. That would allow them to make an informed decision about adopting the technology by seeing what they are gaining and what risks they may face by using it.
Thus, transparency is the key to building trust between tech providers and their target users. So as a mHealth software vendor or clinic representative, consider implementing the following:
- Introduce the telehealth video conferencing program to patients in terms of how it will improve their way of receiving healthcare services, and support this information with real-life cases and survey result;
- Explain what concerns the change may bring to their lives and offer a solution to reduce the lack of face-to-face communication with their doctor. For example, patients can always schedule appointments at the clinic when needed;
- Gather patients’ feedback as they use telehealth to know what concerns you should address and what incentives you should offer to make the adoption easier for them;
- Collect and share testimonials from your satisfied patients to convince others about the convenience and effectiveness of telehealth services;
- Always stay in touch to help patients who use a telehealth program and have questions.
Of course, building user trust is a long process, but taking these steps will help patients view mHealth and telehealth as more reliable technologies over time.
2. Privacy and Healthcare Information Technology Management
Privacy concerns arise when patients feel uncomfortable sharing their personal data during telehealth video conferences. Patients may need clarification about whether the information they share during their visit will remain secure. That also applies to the medical data stored and shared within the clinic.
The reason is that an average of 17,000 patient records are compromised daily due to data breaches. And a leak of patient information poses disastrous consequences for the patient and the facility. The threats include identity theft, impersonation, insurance fraud and even lawsuits, which lead to financial and reputational losses.
Therefore, patients need help overcoming their privacy concerns regarding mHealth remote services. In particular, more than 70% of respondents are anxious about their data privacy and cybersecurity, which means the healthcare sector has a long way to go before patients can fully trust their data to the technologies involved.
Because patient information is sensitive, it is essential to ensure secure data management in a telehealth program. The software must encrypt data and be breach-proof, while the environment where virtual visits take place needs to be secure.
Thus, clinics or software vendors have to tackle different sides of the issue simultaneously. Here are the measures to take to create a secure and data-protecting solution:
- Ensure that the tool is built in compliance with HIPAA, GDPR or other local regulations;
- Use data encryption, limited data access and blockchain technology to maximize data protection when the HIPAA-compliant app is in use;
- Use a role-based access model to minimize risks of patient data getting into the wrong hands and, in case of a breach, for easier identification of those potentially involved;
- Build cloud-based storage to keep patient data remotely and prevent local data breaches;
- Communicate what data you collect during your video conferencing visits and how it is stored and deleted to all stakeholders;
- Train your staff on the rules of accessing and sharing patient data based on HIPAA rules;
- Use a secure internet connection during remote patient consultations, for both messages and video conferencing, and emphasize the need for a secure connection on the patient’s end;
- Be transparent about the measures you take to protect patient data during telehealth services and answer any questions patients may have on what you do with it.
After all, privacy is a serious matter to work on in the field of telehealth, and it is possible to manage patient data securely with a comprehensive approach.
3. Patients’ Lack of Technical Skills
While it is highly convenient to use telehealth services compared to traditional clinic visits, this can be a struggle for some patients. In particular, although various devices are now essential to our lives, older generations may feel less comfortable with them. For instance, almost everyone between 18-59 in the US owns a smartphone, compared to those aged 65 and older, among whom only 61% of smartphone owners. And as many as 83% of people between 50 and 64 have a smartphone too.
With this in mind, while the ownership rates of portable devices are growing, age groups that need physician consultations most often, namely the elderly, are the least likely to be smartphone or tablet owners. That translates into a significant gap between what telehealth offers and some patients’ capabilities to enjoy the services.
Then, the quality of patients’ and doctors’ devices plays a role in the service quality. Of course, a medium-quality video connection is enough for a simple consultation. But a discrepancy in sound quality will be detrimental to patients undergoing speech therapy, for example.
The same applies to the internet connection at patients’ homes. While it is possible to ensure a great connection at the clinic, you can never be sure whether the next patient will be able to stay on a call for the entire visit without being cut off at some point. And as we already mentioned, the security of the internet connection is an essential factor to beware of, too.
One of the goals in developing telehealth should be to make it accessible and well-supported. Here are several steps that can help engage patients of all ages in using video conferencing:
- Discuss access to technology and the presence of tech skills with your patients to understand where they stand;
- Ask whether there is anyone at their home or nearby who can help them use video conferencing and troubleshoot in case of any issues;
- For virtual consulting, stick with software that is simple, technically non-demanding and offers excellent customer support to make it simpler for all kinds of patients;
- Train your staff to cover scenarios that can occur as you provide telehealth services to ensure you minimize any issues on your end and help adopt virtual care easier.
While poor technical skills are a real obstacle to using telehealth video conferencing to its fullest potential, this challenge is solvable. It is also self-resolving as time passes, and tech becomes essential in our daily lives.
Telehealth video conferencing is a beneficial technology that helps patients, healthcare providers, and society. However, it also faces some challenges that must be addressed to ensure the technology evolves. Contact us if you want to develop a telehealth solution while overcoming the challenges, and we will plan your project together.