5 Potential Risks of Telehealth Every Developer Must Know

Key Takeaways

    • Improper patient data security and privacy is the most crucial risks of telehealth. To prevent cybercrimes, healthcare development companies are incorporating stringent measures such as HIPAA compliance and authorized access to data.
    • As per Wall Street Journal, some of the big insurers are pulling back their telehealth coverage for non-Covid-19 related problems. Thus, resulting in reimbursement risks for healthcare providers.
    • Research states that misdiagnosis is the cause of 40,000 to 80,000 deaths in the USA, and it occurs when medical professionals see or hear incomplete information. Thereby, resulting in another telehealth risk.

Although in-person visit has their own set of benefits such as physical diagnosis and better doctor-patient relation, telehealth is arousing the interest of 40 to 60 percent of patients. On the physician side, 58 percent of them continue to view telehealth as a favorable care option.

Telehealth appointments are easy to fit into busy schedules and provide better access to care. Moreover, telehealth features such as access to medical records, compliance, and online scheduling make it convenient to use for patients and doctors alike. However, there are certain risks of telehealth usage. If not mitigated, then these telehealth risks can turn out to be disastrous for patients and providers. Let’s look at them in detail.

5 Pivotal Risks of Telehealth

1. Patient Data Security and Privacy

In 2021, around 57 percent of healthcare organizations suffered data breaches and have affected more than 45 million individuals. This makes inadequate patient data security and privacy perhaps the most crucial risks of telehealth. Cases of improper data privacy and security are ever-growing. Recently, scmagazine.com reported that senators sent inquiries to Cerebral (a mental health subscription) and two other telehealth companies after finding out that their apps were sharing data with Facebook and Google.

Unauthorized data sharing hampers the very foundation of privacy and security. This eventually leads to a breach of HIPAA protocols, followed by criminal charges and penalties. Other forms of data security threats include phishing scams, malicious attachments, unsecured devices, human errors, and negligence toward security. This further results in fraud and patient abuse.

The leak of vital ePHI is a threat to patient safety, identity, financial status, and reputation. To prevent mishaps, healthcare development companies should incorporate stringent measures such as HIPAA compliance, authorized access to data, patient consent to data sharing, and end-to-end data encryption. These approaches will prevent impending risks of telehealth.

2. Reimbursement

Lack of reimbursement from Medicare, commercial insurance plans, and state Medicaid programs is risky for providers from a financial perspective. Medicaid programs are under the state jurisdiction and reimbursement of telehealth services is dependent on state policies. Compensation for healthcare providers depends on aspects such as time spent on patients and complications of treatment.

Further, the CARES Act mandates that all telehealth visits be paid the same as that of in-person visits for those who are Medicaid insured. However, overutilization of telehealth poses long-term risks for insurers. As per Wall Street Journal, some of the big insurers are pulling back their telehealth coverage for non-Covid-19 related problems.

Insurance companies and state-funded Medicaid plans have a different sets of rules for treatments. This means that patients either end up paying less or more, and it becomes confusing. Patients are likely to end up paying surprise bills or delay care altogether.

Despite telehealth reimbursement being a key to continuing virtual care, about one-fifth of the clinicians say that they had to pull back on the use of telehealth due to reduced payments.

3. Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis occurs because what the medical professionals saw or heard during the interaction was incomplete. Failure to diagnose a condition can be another reason. Remote care, video conferencing, and messaging via telehealth increase the possibility of misdiagnosis, as the provider hasn’t taken a closer look at patients’ conditions.

An in-person diagnosis allows the provider to take a closer look at the patient. For instance, dermatologists can view a skin problem closely from various angles and touch the area of concern for accurate assessment. Research states that misdiagnosis is the cause of 40,000 to 80,000 deaths in the USA; around 12 million Americans suffer from a diagnostic error each year.

A study funded by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine stated that the top three diagnostic errors that cause more harm are cancer, vascular events, and infection. Thus, making misdiagnosis a significant risk factor in telehealth.

4. Multistate Telehealth Licensure

The lack of multistate telehealth licenses prevents providers from attending patients outside their states. However, this isn’t liable for patients who are traveling for first-time visits. Consider a healthcare professional who has examined a patient. If that patient calls from another state for questions or follow-up, then the provider can only give suggestions over the phone, and refrain from a telehealth visit.

Providers run the risk of treating patients outside their area, thus bringing liability issues. However, IMLCC (Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission) makes it easy for providers to obtain a license to practice in more than one state. IMLCC is an agreement between states and requires the passage of legislation of any new state that wishes to join.

Additionally, to make telehealth accessible for a majority of people outside the state, Florida has added a new section in 2020. This section allows out-of-state healthcare professionals to provide medical services to Florida people.

5. Technical Risks

Failure to test the telehealth application at the end of the development cycle can result in technical risks such as bugs, slow loading speed, and programming errors. Technical risks are mainly associated with the core functionality of telehealth products. Reasons which give rise to technical risks are:

  • Improper integration of modules.
  • High complexity in telehealth implementation.
  • Unskilled technical team.
  • Less usage of advanced technologies.
  • Frequent changes in development requirements.

Apart from this, not taking responsibility for telehealth quality results in a failed software, which isn’t capable of giving returns. Poor quality software goes unnoticed by users and it’s less likely to generate revenue.

To know more about risks in a telehealth or to get a telehealth application developed for your organization, just get in touch with Arkenea. With over 12 years of experience in the healthcare software development field, our team of experts delivers a high-quality product that meets your standards and needs.