Risk management in telehealth amidst covid times
Risk Management in healthcare today is more than just assessing and managing risk in clinical care. The occurrences of unanticipated events on a global basis due the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent challenge it continues to pose to world healthcare services is proof enough of the need to concentrate on enhanced preparedness for risks in healthcare.
It involves looking beyond clinical aspects and identifying risks to patient, healthcare personnel as well as an organization as a whole. This involves all aspects of work, functioning, interactions and outcomes that are dealt with on a day to day basis on a virtual platform.
It involves planning for potential risk than could have long-term and significant effects within the industry. It should involve specific factors such as:
- safety of patients in the absence of a direct contact with healthcare personnel
- risks within operations and processes involved in online consultations
- cyber security threats
- risks in the strategic planning of the organization in terms of the long term goals and branding with regard to virtual healthcare services
- workforce and human capital risks
- adherence to mandatory protocols as per regulations
- readiness for potential non-compliance
- gross medical errors with respect to prescriptions and medical advice
- issues within present and future organizational policies on tele-health
- technical risks, and
- legal implications of patient care via tele-health
This is the era of telehealth, and risk management in telemedicine is clearly a greater challenge than what the healthcare industry has seen in the pre-pandemic times.
- Virtual conversations cannot replace the advantages that a patient has from physical, face-to-face experience with a doctor or other healthcare worker. It involves either a restrained and completely risk free approach, or an over enthusiastic approach to patient issues on the part of the healthcare personnel to minimize the chance of risks due to missed or delayed diagnosis. The future of telehealth lies in the ability to use virtual healthcare diagnostics in an apt and ideal-to-situation way. The patient plays a big role in his health decisions today and the best approach would be to elevate each patient encounter as a personalized health experience.
- Patient data breach and cyber-security concerns: The risk to patient data and confidentiality is a huge challenge today. Platforms that provide virtual healthcare services need to ensure complete protection of stored patient data. The lack of a security system by means of certifications and software applications poses a great threat in this regard. Healthcare providers need to ensure that these threats are eliminated in their virtual platforms before proceeding with services.
- Enhancing virtual patient experience: Today, a patient expects personal care to a much larger extent in healthcare as compared to any other industry. Online health delivery platforms need to ensure availability of patient data at a centralized source, like a hospital database would do, to enable healthcare personnel to access them at any required point of time. This will play a role in reducing risk related to lack of information with regard to prior treatments and medications.
- Real-time care intervention in areas which are inaccessible to ready healthcare services is the need of the hour. The use of AI, cloud data and analytics to diagnose and monitor patients real-time will play a major role in the future of tele-health. Healthcare organizations are beginning to streamline their thoughts and investments into this aspect to be a part of real-time healthcare delivery. This is not without risks. Prioritization of patients using various AI and analytics will play a role in the process of providing virtual care on a continuous basis.
No organization is completely immune to the varying levels of uncertainty that health services address today. It is pertinent to focus on continuous scanning for novel issues within tele-health and quality improvement as far as risk management and reporting is concerned.
Since adverse outcomes are the most important triggers for risk management, it is vital for healthcare organizations to concentrate on feedback and outcomes incurred during the pandemic period. Patient needs and staff training should be interlinked, thereby reducing the occurrence of adverse events. Quality of care to assess risk can be assessed by various means.
Though all approaches look at healthcare quality from different angles, they overlap in the broad sense of the word. It is the combined effectiveness of all methodologies that brings about the joint quality assurance in the field of telehealth and overall healthcare during global crisis times such as this.