Technology shapes much of people’s lives, including the way that they access healthcare. Within the past couple of decades especially, there has been an increase in focus on delivering remote healthcare through telehealth. There are both challenges and opportunities in incorporating telehealth more predominantly in the US healthcare model.

Advancing Technology
Problem-solving solutions to distance health services increase the amount of technology available to patients in an accessible format. One of the largest areas for opportunities in telehealth relates to this sector. The demand for at-home monitoring increases the availability of medical devices that many patients can use instead of staying at the hospital. Doctors can collect and monitor data from far away. Providers can also use data for predictive analysis to monitor long-term patient progress.

Greater Access
People living in rural areas face greater health disparities and trouble accessing medical care. With fewer medical professionals in these areas, it can be difficult for rural Americans to get the preventative and emergency care they need. Telehealth helps close that disparity by providing access to healthcare professionals without long travel. While this cannot replace emergency services, it does replace some need for in-person treatment.

Patient Trust
One primary challenge in the use of telehealth is the area of patient trust. With high-profile data breaches on the news, patients can find it difficult to trust the security of their private health data online. Older populations may experience an increase in distrust toward telehealth. Maintaining and explaining data security in clear ways can help overcome this gap between patients and healthcare providers.

Technological Disparities
While telemedicine can be a great way to expand care to underserved populations, people need access to high-speed internet to avail themselves of many services. Those in low-income communities and minority communities are less likely to have high-speed internet access for telehealth. Some rural communities also have trouble accessing high-speed internet. Providing infrastructure to these communities and alternative access points can alleviate these issues. Technological instruction remains paramount to ensure patients can operate medical devices to provide accurate information.

The advances in telehealth mean that more people have the potential to access medical care. Unfortunately, it also means that security, distrust, and technological divides exacerbate access to this care. By understanding the challenges with telehealth that patients can experience, providers can plan to serve their patients better.