The AAMC released a more recent report on telehealth competencies, which includes issues such as accessibility and equity, legal requirements and patient safety. The American Board of Telehealth offers certification programs, and the University of Virginia’s Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth has accredited online courses.
Kristi Henderson, senior vice president of the Center for Digital Health at Optum Health, also highlighted the importance of training and how the industry was at an “important crossroads” for the future of telehealth.
“If we’re going to ensure really smooth continuity of care, good handoffs and escalations, understanding when virtual care is appropriate and when it’s not for certain levels of care, then we’ve got work to be done for education and training, and that’s across all types of clinical and clinical support roles,” she said.
Deanna Larson, CEO of Avera eCARE, added that as providers and patients emerge from the “Wild West” of telehealth adoption during the pandemic, regulatory requirements and standardized quality need to be understood.
MORE FROM ATA2021: Dr. Joseph Kvedar explains what’s next for telehealth.
Those foundational pieces can include security considerations, HIPAA compliance and basic technical troubleshooting, such as making sure a patient can hear and see a provider on a given videoconferencing platform.
And though virtual care is here to stay, Larson added that in-person visits won’t disappear, and that these modes of care are complementary to each other. But the infrastructure that exists for brick-and-mortar settings needs to be strengthened for virtual care as well.
Recognizing Informal Caregivers in Healthcare
Though the panel discussion “Skills for Care – What is the Need and What Does Good Care Look Like?” focused on caregiving in the European Union and the U.K., the perspectives shared could still inform the long-term care landscape in the U.S.
According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than 1 in 5 Americans served as a caregiver for an adult or child with health or functional needs in 2020. The U.S. also faces a professional caregiver shortage and high turnover rates in the sector, a worrying trend with the growing population of older adults over the next decade.
MORE FROM ATA2021: Why telehealth is key to access for every patient population.
That’s why it’s important to affirm the much-needed role of informal caregivers, those who are unpaid, who often include family members. Claire Champeix, policy officer for European network Eurocarers, highlighted the need for accessible education and formal recognition of informal caregivers.
And a digital-first strategy has helped in Ireland’s healthcare sector, said Martin Curley, director of Digital Transformation and Open Innovation at Health Service Executive.
Digital Health Benefits Expand for Employees
Large employers have expanded their offerings of digital health benefits, and some 80 percent of them anticipate a larger role for virtual care in general in their health programs in the future, according to Mercer’s 2020 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans.
Businesses can also move the needle on virtual care when they include it as part of their benefits package, experts shared during the session called “Employers as Catalysts for Telehealth.”
“I liken it to, this is 1999 internet, and we’re at the very nascent stages of very exciting, compelling solutions that can make impact in a good way,” said Jason Parrott, senior manager of global healthcare and well-being strategy at Boeing.
READ MORE: Efficiency and personalization are the future of digital health technology.
The adoption of such digital benefits shows promise, from text-based health solutions to remote chronic-condition management. “We’re moving away from being reactive to more real-time, near real-time,” Parrott added.
When employers consider a digital health solution as part of their benefits package, healthcare industry strategist Ted Schwab said, they need to consider whether the solution works, whether it can be tailored to meet the needs of their beneficiaries, whether it’s secure, whether it can connect to other solutions and whether the company offering the solution has financial staying power.
Parrott added that “proven demonstrable outcomes” — financially, clinically and with patient experience — will have staying power with employers.
Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event, which runs through June 29. Follow us on Twitter @HealthTechMag as well as the official organization account, @AmericanTelemed, and join the conversation using the hashtags #ATA2021 and #GoTelehealth.