Hospitals and healthcare facilities are rapidly implementing telemedicine into their regular workflows.
With state and federal policies greatly democratizing and promoting the use of telemedicine, the industry is currently witnessing a huge surge in adoption of telemedicine.
With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the burden on the healthcare system, the need for choosing telehealth is now being felt more than ever. However, implementation of telemedicine is still a challenging ordeal.
From regulatory and reimbursement challenges to technical considerations, here are the major obstacles that you need to overcome when implementing telemedicine.
Challenges of telemedicine implementation
1. Lack of adequate parity laws
Telemedicine suffers from insufficient payment parity as compared to in-person visits. Reimbursement as well as coverage is much lower for telemedicine as compared to regular visits.
Inadequate telemedicine parity laws and Medicare reimbursement are among the top challenges in telemedicine implementation.
In a survey of healthcare professionals and telemedicine users, 40 percent of the respondents said that the parity issue is going unaddressed while 37 percent said that it is only partially addressed.
Nearly half the states in the US do not have the legal infrastructure required to ensure payment parity between in person visits and telehealth consultations.
In the 28 states where parity laws are in place, the infrastructure to enforce these laws is lacking, which is the biggest challenge in telemedicine implementation.
The good news is that the shortcoming is already being addressed and work for ensuring adequate reimbursement and insurance coverage for telemedicine visits is already underway.
Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are working on coverage for prolonged preventative services and virtual consultations.
2. Lack of integration with EHRs
The telemedicine platform needs to have seamless integration with the electronic health records system that your organization is currently using to avoid data redundancies.
Lack of EHR integration is one major challenge plaguing telemedicine implementation today.
Without EHR integration, the patient data cannot be pulled into the system. This results in lack of historical patient data availability which introduces inefficiencies in the healthcare delivery process.
The physicians have to repetitively ask the patients for their information which also hampers the patient’s experience with telehealth consultations.
One of the workarounds for this challenge is choosing a telemedicine platform that integrates with the EHR system that you are currently using.
Choosing an off-the-shelf solution that integrates with your EHR can accelerate the time-to-market while avoiding data integration challenges.
However, market-ready solutions lack the unique user experience that comes with custom development of telemedicine software.
When stuck in the build vs buy debate regarding telemedicine platforms, custom building is always more advantageous in the long run.
Not only will it integrate with the EHR you are using, it can also integrate with all other medical software that you may be using like appointment scheduling software or billing software, resulting in a seamless workflow.
3. Regulatory challenges for practicing telemedicine
The legal and regulatory requirements for any kind of medical software are huge and telemedicine is no exception.
The telemedicine platform that you develop needs to be in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements like HIPAA (health insurance portability and accountability act) to ensure adequate security of the patient’s health information.
Steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of any patient data collected, stored or transmitted through the telemedicine platforms. Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) need to be signed with all the vendors involved to ensure compliance.
State guidelines for practicing telemedicine also have to be considered when including it within your practice workflow. What challenges would arise if you are planning to practice across the state borders?
Some states require that the practitioners be licensed to practice in the state they are offering their services in. Some states require an in-person visit to be done before telemedicine visits can be performed.
There is also the question of prescribing medications electronically. ePrescription regulations and what medications can be prescribed in virtual consultations also vary significantly.
Because of the wide variation in the state-to-state regulatory requirements, it is prudent to research in-advance about the state guidelines of the regions you are planning to cover by offering telemedicine services in.
You may also be interested in:
- Developing a Telemedicine App: The Ultimate Guide
- 3 Telemedicine Types for Every Healthcare Organization
- 11 (Most Important) Telemedicine Benefits
4. Telemedicine implementation challenges
Restructuring your existing healthcare delivery workflow to include telemedicine is a resource intensive activity. Staff participation and training is crucial to successful implementation of telemedicine.
The medical staff and practice managers need to be trained for optimizing on the new technology and maximizing on the return on investment for your healthcare organization.
Training encompasses technical training that would enable your team to leverage telemedicine and all it has to offer to the maximum and provide virtual consultations.
Telemedicine visits lack the personal connection that is forged in case of in-person visits. Your staff also needs to be trained to fill in the gap and treat patients with empathy.
In addition to this, the staff should also have the basic training that they need to troubleshoot common issues that may occur at the patient’s end and resolve them.
Changing the organizational policies requires a buy-in from all the stakeholders. Not only do the staff have to be onboard with telemedicine implementation, their feedback needs to be actively incorporated into the decision making process.
Custom developing a telemedicine platform allows for iterative development to take place. Once the Minimum viable product is developed, both patient and provider feedback on how the telemedicine platform can improve in terms of usability and functionality can be incorporated in the next development cycle.
This results in the development of a scalable and a feature rich product that is fully utilized by your team and equally loved by the patients as well.
Telemedicine is the future of healthcare delivery. If you are looking to include telemedicine in your organization’s workflow, partnering with an experienced healthcare software development company can maximize your chances of success.
With an expertise in building telemedicine platforms for a range of clients, we know what it takes to succeed at telehealth. Get in touch for a consultation with our telemedicine experts today.