Discussion and Conclusions

The field of telehealth holds great promise for the future of healthcare.  It can provide greater access to healthcare, address issues of equity of inclusion, and help solve the problem of a physician shortages.  However, without proper training of providers in telehealth these goals cannot be met.  Health care providers are extremely important to the success or failure of telehealth. The capability of a provider to master the technology, overcome their natural habits, explain the experience, and assess a patient remotely with the limits of today’s technology can make it difficult for the best of providers.  Even the best in-person providers who have no experience with telehealth can easily miss some of the factors that lead to a successful visit.  Therefore, it is vitally important that providers be trained in the nuances of telehealth. Telehealth education should be included in all medical education programs including nursing, medical, physician’s assistant schools, etc. Additionally, competency testing for knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for telehealth provision must be implemented and updated on as necessary. 

Clear policies must also be outlined for periodical training in telehealth technology to keep up with new innovations and advancements in the field.  These policies must take into account the wide range of stakeholders, from patients to providers and hospitals to insurance companies.  Lawmakers need to create legislation that can be universally applied and which fairly compensates providers for their time and skills, while allowing patients options for who they see.  Going forward, the experiences of telehealth that were learned during the COVID-19 pandemic need to be expanded.

Improving training in telehealth and making clear competency requirements for providing telehealth services creates more capable and confident providers. These steps will also improve quality of care given through telehealth and minimize ethical issues for patients.