Telehealth is a rapidly growing means of healthcare. It allows people to seek healthcare and health guidance from anywhere, without physically going to see a doctor. Patients are connected with a physician through means of electronic communication which presents many telehealth risks and challenges.
Many physicians use telehealth in their practice, while the majority of those who don’t, have a plan to implement it in the near future. Determining the risks of telehealth is essential in order to create strategies that minimize those risks. As telehealth appears to be the future of medicine, the safety of both patients and physicians is of the utmost importance.
The potential for misdiagnosis in telehealth tends to be greater than in traditional healthcare. This is due to the fact that the physician is not physically seeing the patient. While it can be simple for a doctor to accurately diagnose their patient through telehealth, it also opens up more room for error.
This is especially true when symptoms are less clear or the diagnosis is challenging. While misdiagnosis is still unlikely as a risk of telehealth, the possibility can cause problems of lack of trust and unreliability. As with any misdiagnosis, a telehealth misdiagnosis can potentially be life-threatening.
In order to minimize this risk, physicians must apply the same standards that they use in their physical practice. Open and honest communication between patient and physician is essential, which includes mutual listening skills, answering questions, and ensuring that the patient understands symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Another risk of telehealth stems from the fact that oftentimes the physician is in a different state than the patient. This means that a number of states’ licensing regulations may be necessary for physicians, as well as compliance with The Interstate Licensure Compact’s telemedicine laws.
Due to the potential for numerous licensing, it can be difficult for doctors to practice telehealth. In order to minimize the risk of not having proper licensing, physicians must consult with an attorney with expertise in telemedicine licensing.
Litigation remains a potential risk of telehealth, which is something that all doctors want to avoid. While there have not been many claims made against practitioners of telemedicine, as the industry grows, it is likely that litigation will begin to take off.
Probable reasons for claims against telehealth physicians are misdiagnosis, misuse of telemedicine, and even privacy and security accusations. Reducing the risk of telehealth litigation will require open and honest communication, in-depth explanation of telehealth processes, accurate documentation and security features, as well as top-notch technology.
Documentation is essential in medicine, in order to ensure the safety, privacy, and consent of patients. Even though telehealth happens virtually instead of in person, the same regulations must be followed and the documentation is required.
Documentation is required that records patient diagnosis, instructions, treatment, reaction to treatment, lab results, and more. Everything must be documented and stored properly, and safety must be considered. This includes the following of HIPAA regulations, informed consent, as well as the prevention of malware attacks.
Another risk of telehealth is discovering how to optimize simple payment processes. In physical practices, payment is commonplace and the method of payment is expected. Telehealth brings a new aspect into paying for service, as everything is done virtually.
Contracting with software or equipment providers is essential for ease of billing, compensation, and privacy. Without a professional company watching over and servicing any equipment, it can make payments nearly impossible to process. These companies ensure effective payment processing and will take care of any billing-related issues for the telehealth practice.
Telehealth risks and challenges final thoughts
Telehealth is providing necessary change to the medical world. The ability to see physicians virtually provides people with greater access to the medical care that they need. It also creates a simple way for doctors to diagnose and treat patients that they are unable to see in person.
In a world that is becoming more and more fast-paced, in the moment, and digitally inclined, telehealth offers a highly-desired service. While there are a handful of risks associated with telehealth, by understanding them, physicians will be better able to address them and help ensure that they do not happen often, if at all.
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