Opinion: Telehealth Alone Will Not Fix Physician Burden And Burnout

Adam Tabriz

A Telehealth Must Shift To virtual Medical Care. That Ideally Necessitates A Hybrid Health City Or Open Marketplace.

This article was initially published by Illumination on Medium!

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Technologies like Telehealth Systems that promote communication between medical professionals and patients from remote locations have evolved in the last decade. Despite its promising role in the healthcare domain Telehealth has not been without its stake of pushbacks and acceptance from the medical community.

However, remote patient and clinician connection, care, recommendation, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions are valuable options that every Telehealth offers to the Healthcare system today.

There is more to remote patient care than an austere Telehealth system. Virtual Health is the term we should use when including various healthcare management and operations in the Telehealth module.

Telehealth Trends In The Past Three Years

According to a report from statistical telehealth market has witnessed a significant surge since the year 2019, when its global market was valued at around 50 billion U.S. dollars. The market forecast, according to Statistica, is to grow to nearly 460 billion U.S. dollars by 2030. Among many factors contributing to this trend, including healthcare costs, the COVID-19 pandemic was a significant player in the explosive technology adoption by the medical communities in the United States and abroad.

Despite Increasing Physician Opt-in, Telehealth Nevertheless Has Its Flaws.

A recent publication in Medical Economics Journal touches on the discourse around Telehealth; how the current turmoil focuses on its benefits, overlooking its potential drawbacks and limitations. The piece's author shed light on Telehealth's role in further fostering physician burden.

Before the COVID-19 pandemics, Telehealth adoption by physicians was sluggish merely due to a variety of factors, including:

  1. The inability of the healthcare system to efficiently harness Telehealth due to the trust gap between healthcare professionals and the technology manufacturers.
  2. Lack of proper technology validation of the appropriate utility of the Telehealth system.
  3. Its limited use case in healthcare and reluctance of the 3rd party payors to reimburse telehealth visits with few exceptions.
  4. Telehealth systems are perceived primarily as a marketing tool. Not uncommonly, some of not most stakeholders viewed Telehealth as a substitute for in-person clinic encounters.
  5. Incentives to reduce healthcare costs by lowering in-person clinic encounters metaphorically using Telehealth for the medical community resemble a double-edged Sword by role. That is if a reduced patient clinic visit is the upshot of their healthy life maintenance or simply an excuse to keep patients home at all costs.
  6. The Telehealth system sets new limits on the standard of care, making the resources available to everyone. However, depending on the technology used, it will limit resource availability for a specific Telehealth system.

In addition to what I mentioned earlier, recent telehealth regulatory shifts have challenged the successful harnessing of the telehealth utility.

Also, some 3rd party payers declared payment equality for Telehealth for the duration of the pandemic, but low general reimbursement for Telehealth will always play a critical disincentive if not addressed.

Telehealth economics can assert significant burdens by requiring new investments in virtual visit infrastructures. Coupling this with the relatively lower reimbursement rate and shifting patients from in-person to virtual visits may significantly burden medical practices.

Undoubtedly, Telehealth seems to be here forever. The only challenge will be to create a healthcare delivery system that delineates the role of Telehealth and virtual medical care. Modern Virtual care must exist as a hybrid experience. The only player to keep the patient at home would be the patient's convenience unless true urgency and an emergent in-person visit become inevitable. The modern system must accommodate precise triage capability and basic health assessment protocols beyond simple video encounters.

The Solution Is ASystem, That Offers Hybrid Open Healthcare Marketplace.

As it stands today, Telehealth is nothing but a teleconferencing platform with a twist. A typical telehealth platform is a more secure, HIPAA-compliant system with Electronic health record capability.

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the table around on telehealth adoption merely to address issues associated with public lockdown, physician practice survival, and rural healthcare. Besides that, the limitations of the telehealth system are unaltered.

The current telehealth technology, just like other healthcare technologies, is fragmented and disconnected from the rest of the team of medical care professionals when it comes to a single patient and their encounter.

A Telehealth must shift to virtual medical care, yet the latter ideally necessitates a hybrid healthcare city or open marketplace atmosphere.

Indeed, in the health city, every in-person encounter, activity, and service must transpire in tandem and synchrony virtually and vice versa, thus necessitating the use of video as a matter of pure logistic state, not a replacement for one another.

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