When COVID-19 hit, the growth in telehealth was immediate and tremendous – in March of 2020 telehealth services grew by more than 1000% and by more than 4000% in April. Nearly a year later, it seems like telehealth is here to stay. There are a lot of advantages to it: it reduces no show rates because patients don’t have to travel, consultations are shorter and doctors can see more patients throughout the day and it’s cost effective. But like any good thing, it comes with drawbacks – like care team burnout, security risks and compliance issues. Now that COVID-19 is on its way out and telehealth is here to stay, it’s time to tackle these challenges head on.

Telehealth Can Lead to Burnout

While this might seem counterintuitive, telehealth can actually exhaust physicians and other care team members. That’s because technology that’s meant to help can actually hurt. Take situations where healthcare team members have to walk patients through how to access a telehealth tool – how to download it, how to use it. Or a situation where the tool frequently crashes or requires lengthy authentication processes. These processes quickly become overwhelming for care team members who are simply trying to provide care efficiently and effectively as possible.

The solution here is to make sure that any tools used for telehealth are intuitive. They should be as easy to use as already existing platforms and apps that physicians and patients use – like SMS texting or Facetime. There’s a reason healthcare gravitated towards insecure platforms – because they were intuitive. Look for secure tools that provide that same level of intuitiveness.

Telehealth Brings Added Security Risks

In 2020, healthcare cyberattacks increased by 55%, impacting the PHI of 26 million people in the USA. Now, more than ever, healthcare organizations need to focus on cybersecurity. But the tools often used for telehealth – like Zoom or Facebook Messenger – lack security features as basic as encryption. In these scenarios, patient data is shared in an unsecure environment, putting it at risk. That makes it easy for hackers to steal that data. With health records valued between $250-$1,000 per record – this is an attractive prospect for hackers and a frightening reality for healthcare organizations.

This means that healthcare organizations shouldn’t opt for the usual insecure options frequently used in telehealth – instead they need to think carefully about what tools they use. They need to make sure it goes beyond basic security needs, like encryption, to ensure they’re in control of PHI at all times.

Telehealth Opens Up a Can of Worms with Compliance

When healthcare organizations had to quickly adopt telehealth during the onset of COVID-19, regulatory agencies suspended compliance requirements that would slow down adoption. That made it simple for healthcare organizations to use tools that were not compliant for telehealth. But as we approach a post-COVID world, these regulations are coming back into effect – and healthcare organizations can no longer rely on non-compliant tools for telehealth. The problem? They’ve already adapted to these tools – and switching over to bulky, compliant tools is going to be hard to do.

But switching over is a must in order to meet compliance requirements, which means healthcare organizations or going to have to find ways to make that transition to compliant tools as smooth as possible – or risk compliance finesas high as $50,000 per violation.

In our next few blogs, we’re going to tackle each of these challenges – security, burnout and compliance – and address the potential solutions in-depth. Stay tuned as we talk about how healthcare organizations can address these challenges by making changes to organizational culture and opting for the right tools.

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