Physician adoption the biggest barrier to telehealth

Although telehealth is being increasingly seen as a legitimate way to deliver healthcare, physicians are still somewhat wary of it.

Physician adoption is still the largest challenge to telehealth, according to Theo Harvey, CEO of Atlanta-based telehealth company SynsorMed. Many are concerned about reimbursement, as telehealth is still not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare coverage in many states. Others are concerned about quality — not physically seeing a patient is still a fairly new concept, he said.

However, younger physicians are more open to trying new technologies, and ensuring older physicians that it is secure and works could encourage adoption. Mr. Harvey, who co-founded the company in 2014 with Amin Holmes, who is now the president of the company, also said telemedicine could increase availability for those who have little access to specialists or physicians in general.

"I had this idea two years ago with the frustration I had when my first daughter was born," Mr. Harvey said. "It was difficult to get a pediatrician or even the ED, which is expensive. Having access to a doctor we needed was at the top of my mind and my co-founder's mind. Everything else is so convenient now. When it comes to seeing a physician, it's still very old-fashioned that way."

However, as telehealth spreads, physicians will likely have to adopt the technology or be left behind, Mr. Harvey said. Patients like the convenience and the lower cost, and if a provider does not want to implement telehealth, patients will likely go somewhere else, he said.

SynsorMed's solution is implemented directly into a provider's EHR and does not store any protected health information. Mr. Harvey compared it to an armored truck — the system carries the information across the network, but it is being connected directly to an EHR and cannot be intercepted on the way. The company is also considering implementing a solution that offers real-time access to wearables data to allow physicians and patients to more carefully track fitness data.

He said the goal is to use telehealth to connect physicians to patients with whom they already have an existing relationship. That way, telehealth becomes a part of the care continuum and not an on-demand service.

"We think it's very important for the doctor and the patient to have a preexisting relationship," Mr. Harvey said.

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