Apr 21 2020

What Does the Future Hold for Telehealth?

Clinicians and legislators are enacting temporary changes to virtual care that could have long-term impact.

Once considered a complementary mode of care, telehealth has become essential. Clinicians and IT teams — regardless of location or specialty — have quickly scaled up virtual care offerings to conserve supplies and reduce exposure to COVID-19.

Swift government action supports the shift: A $2 trillion coronavirus response bill signed by President Donald Trump includes the temporary waiving of Medicare’s geographic restrictions on telehealth and broadens the types of devices allowed to conduct a visit.

Several states have also waived certain licensure and other restrictions to permit expanded telemedicine services during the pandemic. Many insurers are expanding access and reducing costs to members.

Successes and learnings in the months ahead, experts say, will help dictate what the future looks like. It also will prompt health systems to address shortcomings in mobile tools, staff training and connectivity.

Still, only 1 in 5 respondents in a recent nationwide survey said they have ever used telehealth. But the survey, conducted by an IT outsourcing provider, also found nearly three-quarters of the audience would consider a virtual screening for COVID-19; two-thirds are now more willing to try telehealth.

Regulatory and reimbursement challenges will remain, but the response “may be the right impetus for lawmakers and regulatory agencies to promulgate further measures that facilitate more widespread adoption of telemedicine,” two lawyers for the international firm Jones Day write in The American Journal of Managed Care.

Read a CDW white paper about how mobile devices and apps can improve healthcare outcomes.

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