By Devin Partida, technology writer and the editor-in-chief, ReHack.com.
Once a fringe technology, telehealth has become a standard offering in many healthcare systems. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth accounted for 43.5% of primary care visits, compared to less than 1% in February 2020. Now that more hospitals and patients are accustomed to the technology, it’s likely here to stay.
As telemedicine becomes increasingly prominent, more healthcare organizations may seek accreditation for these services. When they do, their IT teams will play a crucial role in the process. While telehealth is a multidisciplinary field, whether an organization can get accreditation for its telemedicine system rests primarily on the IT department.
Why Pursue Telehealth Accreditation?
Right now, telehealth accreditation isn’t a necessity for healthcare organizations, but that could change in the future. As these services grow in popularity, accreditation will likely become a payer requirement for many healthcare plans. Seeking this qualification now can help hospitals and other health organizations prepare for future markets.
Even if telehealth accreditation doesn’t become a requirement, it’s still beneficial. Having validation of high standards can comfort patients, helping draw in and retain them for their future care needs. This assurance can boost organizations’ confidence in their own systems, too, encouraging them to make the most of telehealth’s vast opportunities.
Accreditation also provides a roadmap for continuous improvement by helping organizations maintain minimize liability amid changing standards. As telehealth becomes increasingly common, understanding relevant best practices will become integral to a healthcare organization’s success. Any company that wants to capitalize on telehealth should pursue accreditation, which means more involvement from IT teams.
Privacy and Security
IT’s most critical role in getting telehealth accreditation is ensuring user privacy and security. Improper data management could result in HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations. Beyond HIPAA, different states have varying regulations that telemedicine platforms will have to comply with. Meeting these stringent requirements will require robust cybersecurity measures.
Since healthcare data is such a sensitive subject, accreditors will look for high data security standards. IT teams must understand where vulnerabilities may lie and how to patch them to prevent breaches. If IT workers can secure telehealth data from the start, it will lead to a quicker and smoother accreditation process.
Medical professionals understand what a telehealth system must offer to ensure quality care, but IT teams know the risks of data-sharing. These various stakeholders must work together to design a platform that enables seamless data transfer while preventing leaks. Without these security considerations, accreditation won’t be possible.