If there is a silver lining to this pandemic, for patient engagement proponents it would have to be the emergence of telehealth.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, Seema Verma recently shared a staggering statistic: “in the last week of April, nearly 1.7 million beneficiaries received telehealth services—compared to about 13,000 per week leading up to the crisis.”
The reasons for this spike — outside of the obvious restrictions around in-person treatment — lie largely with the CMS itself. Reacting to the need for virtual visits, CMS announced several temporary rules and waivers to expand the scope of Medicare telehealth services, aiming at making it easier for a broader range of healthcare providers to offer a wider number of telehealth services to individuals across the country.
“These numbers are a pleasant surprise to those of us who have been toiling for years to bring remote care to the masses,” says, Get Real Health President, Robin Wiener. “However, there is much work to be done to ensure that this trend continues in a post-pandemic world.”
Even Verma could not have predicted the rate at which telehealth would be embraced by the general public, long thought to be leery of remote care. In her blog, Verma opines “With these transformative changes unleashed over the last several months, it’s hard to imagine merely reverting to the way things were before.”
It seems Congress is in accord. The Protecting Access to Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Act introduced recently aims to continue the telehealth services available amid the Coronavirus pandemic past the crisis including continued coverage for connected health in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health centers (RHCs) as well as telehealth delivered to a patient’s home.
“We are so encouraged by the Congressional push for greater telehealth services,” offer Wiener. “The broad adoption of our Talk With Your Doc telehealth product gave us a personal glimpse into the mindset of Americans regarding remote care. It is obvious that the majority of our country is finally stepping out of their comfort zone and not viewing medicine in its traditional role.”
Despite the distance between patient and provider, care across all competencies continues to be addressed through remote visits. This includes critical mental health monitoring, vital during these times of stress and isolation. Verma stated that approximately 460,000 ( or 60%) of individuals seeking services through a psychiatrist or psychologist received care through telehealth.
Also encouraging are the demographics around users which shows no segment of the population shunning telehealth services although some are more prone to audio only visits either due to comfort level or lack of video accessibility.
“We will be watching these developments very closely,” adds Wiener. “And we look forward to being a part of the conversation and product development that makes telehealth a mainstream, viable option for patients and providers alike.”
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Read Verma’s blog here>
Read the proposed bill here>
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