Updates in making telehealth platforms more HIPAA compliant
When COVID-19 first spread to the United States, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it would not impose penalties on healthcare providers for telehealth communication with patients that does not fully comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).¹ It’s expected that HHS will keep allowing for good faith use of telehealth during the pandemic, but at some point this could expire. Expect to see healthcare providers updating how they implement telehealth in their practices as they anticipate this, perhaps changing the program they currently use to one that has a Business Associate Agreement with the third party that provides the data storage.
An expansion of remote telemetry monitoring
Remote telemetry is seen by some as a particularly exciting development in healthcare technology that helps to manage demand in hospitals.² As COVID-19 continues to spread and hospitals and medical professionals find themselves exposed to an ever-increasing patient load, the ability to remotely monitor patients could provide well-needed relief. Remote telemetry monitoring for all patients, including those recovering from COVID-19, could present a significant advantage in care delivery in 2021.
At-home laboratory testing options
We could easily see an expansion of at-home options for COVID-19 testing, especially since the first self-testing kit has already been approved. In November 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first COVID-19 test for self-testing at home, the Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit.³ A variety of over-the-counter, FDA-approved COVID-19 test kits could be available sooner than we think. At-home testing kits for a variety of other conditions may also become available as patients remain at home and hospitals prioritize care for patients with COVID-19.
Higher-than-expected vaccine acceptance
The question of just how accepting people are of the COVID-19 vaccine is one that must be reckoned with. Recent polls suggest that as many as 71% of US adults say they will definitely or probably get a COVID-19 vaccine. There are a number of factors that contribute to whether or not adults are likely to accept that vaccine. As the first recipients of the vaccine continue to report minimal side effects and complications as time passes, there is more likely to be greater acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine by the general population.
Increased requests for mental health care
The isolation, fear, and loss experienced by people during the COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous for psychological well-being. Individuals who have had COVID-19 may also be at an increased risk for developing mental illness.⁴ It could be anticipated that an increasing number of Americans will seek treatment for the anxiety and depression they have experienced during the pandemic.
What could we anticipate in the medical field in 2021? An intense 2020 may be behind us, but as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues its winter surge, this year seems likely to place it front and center again.
There’s no exact science behind these, but here are just a few of our predictions for what we might expect in medicine this year.
- Notification of enforcement discretion for telehealth. US Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html. Reviewed March 30, 2020. Accessed December 29, 2020.
- Is remote telemetry the future of healthcare? National Telemetry Association. https://nationaltelemetryassociation.org/is-remote-virtual-telemetry-the-future-of-healthcare/. Published 2020. Accessed December 29, 2020.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: FDA authorizes first COVID-19 test for self-testing at Home. US Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-first-covid-19-test-self-testing-home. November 17, 2020. Accessed December 29, 2020.
- Taquet M, Luciano S, Geddes JR, Harrison PJ. Bidirectional associations between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorder: retrospective cohort studies of 62 354 COVID-19 cases in the USA.The Lancet Psychiatry. 2020. doi:10.1016/s2215-0366(20)30462-4