Is Telehealth here to stay?
Telehealth (telemedicine) seemed like it was here to stay when the pandemic hit. Being stuck at home and needing the advice or services of a doctor led many physicians to adopt the practice and many patients to accept and use the service. Additionally, federal and state governments took actions to facilitate telehealth and expand its use. But, most of those actions were only temporary and enacted due to practical issues involving Covid-19.
So now, for a variety of reasons, it’s not so certain that telehealth will become a mainstay in the practice of medicine. While some patients and physicians love it, others are hesitant to accept or even try it. The pros and cons of telemedicine are many, which is why it’s becoming increasingly unclear what the future holds.
Payers Slow to Embrace Telemedicine
For physicians and patients alike, unfortunately, one of the biggest obstacles in utilizing or permanently accepting telehealth is cost, which should not be the case. Because public and private payers (i.e., Medicare and private health insurers) have been slow to embrace telemedicine, there has been a resulting lack of guidance and information, as well as just plain confusion, about billings and reimbursement for the service.
Uncertainty about reimbursement leads to patient hesitancy about using telehealth because they fear their insurer won’t pay. It also leads physicians to providing services for which they are not paid or paid very little—something they cannot accept permanently if their practice is to survive.
An Uncertain Future
Uncertainty as to the future of telemedicine also arises because of generational differences of patients and physicians alike. While younger generations, for whom technology is like a second language, are willing and actually desire only telehealth, older and aging baby boomer generations are not so accepting.
Patients and physicians share concerns about privacy issues, but at the same time agree that telehealth provides more access to health care, is more convenient and time-saving, and may reduce illness and provide better overall health care.
For many reasons, the future of telehealth is still uncertain.