In the past, telehealth was exclusively utilized in rural or isolated areas, but it is currently being used more frequently to broaden the geographic reach of healthcare services and enhance patient access. Patients have named convenience, effectiveness, communication, privacy, and comfort as factors that are crucial for the usage of telehealth. Numerous practices and specialties fall under the umbrella of telehealth, which encompasses contacts between patients and doctors over the phone, email, video calls or conferences, the Internet, and remote equipment. Patients can easily connect with medical professionals through telehealth programs if they have smartphones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers. These professionals may be able to diagnose, monitor, and treat a variety of acute and chronic diseases. Although telehealth is an efficient and effective method for improving healthcare access and outcomes, there are still some hurdles to its usage, which are expanding along with technical advancements.
Both telehealth and telemedicine are frequently used in the same sentence. According to the HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration), telehealth is a subset of e-health and is the use of telecommunications technology in healthcare delivery, information, and education. In the context of telehealth, telemedicine is understood to relate specifically to clinical services. Similar services provided by telehealth and telemedicine include medical education, remote patient monitoring, videoconferencing patient consultations, wireless health applications, and transmission of imaging and medical data. Besides increasing access to healthcare services, advancements in health information technology have also sparked a surge in telehealth, bringing together patients and physicians in ways that weren't before possible. Numerous practices and specialties fall under the umbrella of telehealth, which encompasses contacts between patients and doctors over the phone, email, video calls or conferences, the Internet, and remote equipment. There is a greater potential for liability and legal concerns due to the rapid spread of telehealth, particularly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, as well as inconsistent legislation and guidelines (Dr. Pelkowski).
Giving basic medical treatment to people in remote and underdeveloped areas was the original idea behind telehealth. There are many reasons why telehealth is becoming more widely accepted and used. One of these is the shift in the healthcare industry from fee-for-service to models where payment is based on patient and quality outcomes. Telehealth has been accepted and successful in many medical specialties and settings since hospitals and providers are under increasing pressure to deliver high-quality patient care while reducing costs.
Telehealth technologies are being more widely used as a reliable and affordable method of providing and gaining access to high-quality medical services and results. Telemedicine has the ability to lower the cost of healthcare in America by reducing issues like pharmaceutical abuse, pointless trips to the ER, and extended hospital stays. Patients in remote areas or regions with a lack of providers can access resources and care thanks to telehealth, which also allows for equivalent or better treatment quality while increasing efficiency without increasing net costs. Patient satisfaction can also rise with the usage of telehealth due to easier access to care, convenience, and less stress. Although telehealth has advantages for both patients and doctors, it has regrettably been slow to catch on due to some obstacles, such as older people's technology utilization and slow Internet bandwidth in rural or under served areas. Despite these obstacles, telehealth adoption will probably keep rising as patients and clinicians get more skilled and at ease using technology in place of in-person contact (Dr. Jessica).
The COVID-19 epidemic created numerous difficulties for the whole healthcare sector. Numerous modifications to practice models were required to continue providing patients with and without COVID-19 with safe and effective care. As a result, there was a quick transition to telehealth models in many inpatient and outpatient settings. Patients and providers had to immediately adjust to telehealth models to stop and lessen the spread of COVID-19.
The inability to conduct thorough physical examinations, the potential for technical issues, security breaches, and regulatory obstacles are some drawbacks of telehealth. Some telehealth detractors fear that the practice may adversely impact continuity of care, claiming that virtual interactions are impersonal and risky because they lack the full benefit of a history and physical examination to aid in diagnosis and treatment. Telehealth should be viewed as an adjunct and is most effective when utilized in conjunction with in-person visits, even if face-to-face interactions are sometimes required in many situations when auscultation or palpation is important.
Additionally, there are numerous legal and regulatory obstacles to telehealth, including wide variances in the laws, norms, and ethical standards. The uncertainty experienced by telehealth providers is a result of this diversity. Healthcare professionals should be aware of potential telehealth legal risks and ramifications, as well as risk management techniques. Besides ensuring optimal practices for patient care, this will help to prevent licensures or legal problems. State-specific telehealth laws and policies differ significantly from one another and are constantly developing. This leads to a lack of clarity across healthcare organizations and groups regarding standards and norms. The rapid growth of telehealth, particularly during the COVID-19 epidemic, combined with a lack of uniform norms and policies, increases the risk of responsibility and legal problems. While adopting best practice guidelines to provide patient safety, providers should be aware of and maintain compliance with state and federal legal obligations (Dr. Shilpa).