The convenience of being able to speak to a physician via live videoconference is changing healthcare, but how do we maintain quality control and keep our personal data safe?
Washington, DC -- Independent accreditor URAC today published its latest industry insight report addressing the present and future of the telehealth industry. The report, Disrupting Healthcare: Risks and Rewards of Telehealth, examines the major factors driving the growth of telehealth in the U.S. healthcare sector, including financial incentives, changing medical philosophies and a growing need to serve patient populations who lack access to care.
Hardly a month goes by that we don’t hear about a cyber or ransomware attack on a healthcare provider, manufacturer or health plan. Though major attacks are the ones that make the news, healthcare providers across the country face the risk of an attack of any size.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates that more than 900 million records have been breached in the United States since 2005 as a result of nearly 5,200 reported incidents. Of those, about 30 percent—more than 1,500 data breaches—occurred in the healthcare industry.
Uncertainty in the legal and regulatory landscape. Lack of HIPAA enforcement. Little interest in fraud from the OIG. State licensure statutes that were written long before the technology for telehealth existed. Risks to quality healthcare. Plus, the changing expectations from patients as consumers.
The rapidly growing telehealth industry is replete with challenges – and opportunities, which was the focus of a URAC-sponsored webinar, Challenges and Outlook for Telehealth in the Changing Healthcare Economy, on October 26, 2016. URAC Vice President Deborah Smith moderated the discussion with Adam Romney, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine, and Robert Bernstein, MD, vice president for clinical affairs, Carena.
While many interested parties are watching how the legal action plays out in Texas with Teladoc’s federal antitrust lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board (TMB), there’s another way to address the issues other than regulations.
Recently, a number of parties filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Fifth Circuit supporting Teladoc’s case, including the Justice Department and the FTC. And although the TMB has withdrawn its appeal, it plans to continue to fight Teladoc in the lower court.
The challenges for telehealth are significant, but the potential benefits are immense. The healthcare industry must address and overcome the issues – as we cannot afford to walk away from the benefits.
“There are known and agreed-upon major and chronic health problems in this country,” said Kylanne Green, President and CEO of URAC. “Many Americans live with diabetes, obesity or multiple life-threatening conditions. Telehealth has demonstrated effectiveness against those health issues and many others.”
Spending on telehealth services in the United States is expected to increase nearly tenfold in just five years.
According to projections from IHS Technology, telehealth spending per year in the United States will rise from just $240 million in 2014 to $2.2 billion in 2018. It is predicted that there will be 7 million telehealth encounters of all types by 2018.
URAC launches the first independent, third-party telehealth accreditation program.
Telehealth is a powerful tool that can help improve health outcomes and lower healthcare costs. By creating efficiencies and extending the reach of existing providers, it has the ability to ameliorate healthcare workforce issues and can reduce health disparities for aging and underserved populations by overcoming access barriers and reducing both costs and burdens for patients around the globe.