Why are some people reluctant to use telehealth?

74 per cent of providers have patients who refused a video call with medical staff

Why are some people reluctant to use telehealth?

Globally, people are still reluctant to trust telehealth or virtual care services.

Specifically, 74 per cent of providers have experienced cases where patients have refused a video call with medical staff, according to a report from cybersecurity company Kaspersky.

Why? Data privacy concerns (52 per cent) make up the top reason.

Also of concern:

  • a general lack of trust towards telehealth (33 per cent)
  • an unwillingness to appear on video (32 per cent)
  • lacking the correct equipment (30 per cent).

Eighty per cent of Canadians say their employer should provide access to virtual care or telemedicine, according to a 2020 survey released by Dialogue. Two-thirds (66 per cent) would also be likely to use telehealth if it was available through their benefits plan.

Telehealth takes off

More than four in five (91 per cent of) medical organizations have implemented telehealth capabilities, and 44 per cent started to use them after the pandemic.

And 42 per cent of organizations say that most of their patients are more interested in remote than in-person sessions because of their convenience, finds Kapersky.

The most common service provided by organizations is synchronous telehealth (51 per cent), such as real-time communication with patients, including video call or chat. This is followed by remote patient monitoring via wearable devices (41 per cent) and asynchronous telehealth (39 per cent) technology.

In early 2020, CAA Club Group introduced a new benefit to employees — free access to virtual health care through its employee assistance program (EAP). Workers can now reach doctors 24-7 by text, email, apps or video through a laptop, smartphone or tablet for advice, diagnoses and prescriptions.

Data privacy concerns

More than eight in 10 (81 per cent) healthcare providers also state that clinicians at their organization have voiced concerns about patients’ data protection when conducting remote sessions.

And only 36 per cent are very confident that their organization has necessary security measures, according to Kaspersky’s findings based on 389 interviews conducted in 34 countries in North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

“Trust has always been important to the healthcare sector, but today as more and more medical organizations rely on technology and digital offerings to support their services, patients also want to feel confident about the privacy of their medical data,” says Evgeniya Naumova, executive vice president of corporate business at Kaspersky.

“That means the level of trust within the industry is inextricably linked to a provider’s ability to ensure the safety of the sensitive information they collect, share, and store.”

In early 2020, various medical groups in Canada called for a national standard to better manage virtual health care.

Special considerations for privacy

Healthcare providers delivering virtual care must ensure their practices and clinic policies and procedures are compliant with the provinces’ and territories’ regulations for ensuring the privacy and security of personal health information provided during virtual encounters, according to Ruth Stewart, senior risk control consultant for healthcare at CNA Canada.

“Any application selected for texting, voice and video calling should be specifically designed for healthcare to meet its security and privacy requirements. Typical security controls are data encryption and user authentication and access control mechanisms. Both practitioners and patients need to be educated about security best practices when they connect from home.”

Unlike the traditional in-person physician-patient interaction, telemedicine requires special consideration for privacy, says Dentons. Physicians must take reasonable steps to ensure that the hardware and software used is functioning properly and securely, and any support staff should be adequately trained and competent to use the equipment, should be up-to-date and reliable.

“Patients should be apprised of the possible limitations of their electronic devices and the potential for breach of their information through hacking or malfunctions of technology. In other words, reasonable measures must be taken by the physician and the patients to ensure that the medical information will not be intercepted by a third party. Medical record-keeping is crucial, but more so in telemedicine given the added burden of additional requirements for the security of medical information.”

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