The Surge of Telehealth Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

The “Devil’s Advocacy” of Yesterday, Government Solution of today- but, one more volatility for Medical Practice of tomorrow


Originally Published by Being Well on Medium

Photo by Allie on Unsplash

Midst of the spectrum of changes the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon citizens worldwide, be it the direct result of the infection or as part of the reaction to contain the contagion, we can point to the increasing utility of virtual communication. Even within the virtual and Tele-video conferencing modules, one can eyewitness an overwhelming rush to implement some form of Telemedicine or Telehealth systems.

The growth of the Telehealth system has been so fiery that some healthcare administrators have raised concerns about the threat of potential fraud amid COVID-19 pandemonium.

On March 17, after the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the Coronavirus pandemic, Medicare administrator (CMS), Seema Verma unveiled an unexpected order to promote virtual medical care or Telehealth clinical encounters. This knee-jerk phenomenon is a shock to those battling reduced restrictions on Telemedicine that the same administration implemented under the bipartisan switch.

The CMS administrator temporarily lifted several federal restrictions on the use of the Telehealth service, which had been primarily limited to rural areas. In her white house briefing in march 2020, She praised Telehealth, announcing it could handle routine care for an older patient with diabetes out of endangering a visit to a medical office.

Under these, Medicare beneficiaries with mild flu-like symptoms could receive advice from a doctor at home. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s effort also raised concerns that judicious loosening the “chokehold” on Telehealth would potentially unleash a wave of billing frauds and abuse, risking patient safety.

These fraudulent exercises can have harmful outcomes, as virtual rooms operating anywhere in the world can target patient information. At the same time, Medicare resources may struggle to differentiate improper bills from those submitted by genuine Telehealth encounters.

The Telemedicine industry argues their remote systems are no more predisposed to billing violations than any other branch of healthcare. Nevertheless, we all know that chaos and confusion breed fraudulency.

Telehealth of yesterday is no more diverse today, but the attitudes have changed.

Up until the Coronavirus pandemics, there was significant skepticism about the modern Telehealth systems. Some of these concerns to name- according to a survey from web-based Electronic Health Record (EHR) comparison, include:

Lack of in-person interaction, technical issues, inability to perform a physical exam, low quality of care, uncomfortable video, inability to read body language, lack of time spent, and security concerns.

The study finds that security is one of the most emphasized fears patients express among all the fears. Despite the reassurance, it still seems like building voluntary standards or new federal statutes aimed at telehealth systems may not significantly better users’ level of trust.

Addressing patient concerns about the safety and reliability of the telehealth system is essential, without making patients and physicians overconfident about their usefulness by generating false expectations.

Statistics of Telemedicine in 2017

Patient telehealth usage surged between 2005 to 2017. (i.e. From 206 to 202,374) However, While telehealth’s use increased considerably from 2005 to 2017, its utility was still rare by 2017. The growth was mainly attributed to increasing its use by the mental health and radiology domains, which did not require a physical exam routinely.

Telehealth- the notion of Devil’s Advocate

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the Devil in Telemedicine detail. It has forced medical experts to switch attitudes amid economic concerns by initiating a Model of a can-do attitude.

It has influenced the legislatures to reform the payer requirements and regulatory framework around Telehealth technology. On the other hand, governments were always reluctant to give in to the concept of Telemedicine and virtual clinic encounters, but now they are embracing it like never before.

Coronavirus opened a new door to the radical turnover of Policies

For years the healthcare industry has been striving to implement a telehealth system. However, even though its use became more prevalent, governments were reluctant to provide a complete pass. With the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a radical shift with very little explanation.

The doors have opened for the telehealth technology rush, with all the accompanying unpredictabilities upon its implementation. There will be a flood of products and services and market growth, which is reasonable given the demand for virtual encounters. However, the most significant menace is clearly defining as to what extent can a specific product deliver what is expected.

Telehealth Today

Browsing through the internet, I stumbled across the following phrase published by American Telemed (ATA)- “TELEHEALTH IS HEALTH.”

The above motto hail from particularly strong but not too astounding!

To a layman’s auricles raising telehealth to the level of health itself, bearing in mind the currently available technologies, is misleading and demonstrates how entities use words and rhetorics to overrate the telehealth system beyond what it is designed to offer.

Telehealth is a valuable technology; hence it can be helpful under definite indications, but making health the same as telehealth is absurd and irresponsible. Another source likewise states:

“When Will Telehealth Simply Be ‘Health’? Some experts say sooner rather than later, although there are roadblocks still in the way, policymakers, providers, and patients are getting more on board with the convenience and benefits that come with virtual he