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Busting a Few Unfortunate Myths About Telemedicine

telemedicine mythsWhen something becomes a myth it is usually based on some kernel of truth. The legend of Big Foot probably started with someone seeing a bear. A giant sturgeon may have given rise to the Loch Ness Monster. Stories get told and retold, gaps get filled in, assumptions made, times change and soon you have a myth that doesn’t resemble the actual facts at all.

We think that’s exactly what has happened to cause some of the most persistent and unfortunate myths about telemedicine. Let’s look at a few.

Myth: Telehealth equipment is expensive and technically complicated

This myth certainly started out as true. There was a time when the price and technical know-how to deploy telemedicine solutions was out of reach for most practices. Fortunately, times have changed. These days, telemedicine software is available online and all you need to use is a PC or mobile device. The vendor takes care of all the technology and even helps integrate it with your EHR system. Your team just logs in and gets to work.

Myth: Providers don’t get reimbursed for video visits

This is another belief that belongs in the past. Over the last several years, states and insurance providers have realized the incredible value of telemedicine to the healthcare system. Thirty states have enacted laws requiring payers to reimburse providers for video visits in many cases. In addition, many payers are embracing telehealth and paying for video visits even when they are not required to by law.

Myth: Telemedicine can only be used to treat established patients

Although some states do require a prior in-person relationship, many have eliminated this rule.  A few either require or suggest an annual in-office visit. When it comes to telemedicine, what is true in one state may be false in another, so it pays to get the facts about yours.

Myth: Patients aren’t ready for it or won’t understand the technology

This is a myth that is contradicted by lots of data. For example, a recent study by Software Advice, found that among patients who have not used a telemedicine service, 75 percent express interest in using one in lieu of an in-office medical visit. Further, 67 percent of patients, respond that using telemedicine “somewhat” or “significantly” increases their satisfaction with their medical care.

Myth: Video visits pose a privacy risk

There actually is some truth to this one. Consumer grade video platforms like FaceTime and Skype are not designed to protect patient privacy, are not HIPAA compliant, and should not be used for telemedicine. That said, purpose built telehealth technologies have advanced safeguards in place to protect patient information and ensure that providers stay on the right side of HIPAA.

I must admit that I’d be delighted if the Loch Ness Monster were real. There’s not much harm in believing that an ancient reptile swims around a faraway lake.  But these myths about telemedicine can cause harm if they keep practices and patients from enjoying one of the most convenient and cost-effective channels for delivering healthcare. For that reason, we’ll keep busting them up for anyone who will listen.