Four complications that come with the shift to telehealth

Four complications that come with the shift to telehealth

U.S. healthcare centered around in-person, office visits for decades — until COVID-19 arrived. To prioritize public safety and cope with enormous strain on the healthcare system, the paradigm swiftly shifted. Telehealth rapidly became the new normal in many circumstances, embraced by care providers and patients alike.

Since the pandemic began, telehealth visits are up 50 to 175 times.1

Though the adoption of telehealth has increased access to care and added convenience, the shift leads to new complications and circumstances that medical providers need to watch and plan for.

  1.  Accuracy. Providers need to establish clear protocols to determine which clinical conditions can be handled virtually and which need in-person evaluation. They also need to think about practitioners who have limitations with virtual settings. These considerations will help ensure providers arrive at accurate diagnoses.
  2. Financial viability. Providers need to consider that in the long run, the trend to virtual care could impact the financial health of their organizations if elective surgeries and appointments continue to fall off.
  3. Cyber risk. Reliance on telehealth has opened new avenues for data breaches, whether the virtual connection is patient-to-physician, physician-to-physician, or patient-to-technology. Data breaches that leak patient information also put providers at risk of HIPAA violation.
  4. Credentialing. As demand for care grows in many places, medical providers are pressed to confirm proper credentialing quickly for telemedicine service as they onboard new staff members.

The shift to telemedicine could lead to still more complexity, including:

  • An uptick in telemedicine malpractice claims
  • New regulations for practitioners to learn and follow

And COVID-19 aside, advances in technology and artificial intelligence are already muddying the liability picture by introducing new questions around fault.

Preparing for the new normal

Medical providers can plan for and meet these new complexities with confidence by working with insurance partners that are closely following this changing landscape.

1 “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?”, Oleg Bestsennyy, Greg Gilbert, Alex Harris, and Jennifer Rost, McKinsey & Company, 29 May 2020.

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