Is the Doctor Online? How COVID-19 Increased Telehealth Access

Published on 6th August 2020

This insight post is a summary of the original blog post authored by Emily Field of RH Strategic. View the original, full-length blog post.

COVID-19 has brought our healthcare system’s challenges and issues to the forefront, but it’s also opened virtual doors to improved access via telehealth. 

Historically, the Legislature has been slow to make telehealth widely available. 

However, Congress is easing previously stringent telehealth restrictions to meet the need for such services that can protect populations, particularly vulnerable groups, from the risk of exposure from hospital or doctor’s office visits.

The changes are happening at national and state levels to ensure widespread availability and adoption, creating an opportunity for improvement and innovation in telehealth.

Active Legislation with Telehealth Provisions

  1. Decreasing Restrictions on Telehealth to Encourage Utilization: On March 17, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) waived restrictions on telehealth services so patients could receive a wide range of healthcare services without visiting a doctor’s office. 
  2. Ensuring Support for Seniors: The Advancing Connectivity during the Coronavirus to Ensure Support for Seniors (ACCESS) Act (3517) would increase nursing facilities’ access to telehealth services and technologies to allow telehealth visits during COVID-19.
  3. Increasing Access to Care in Rural Areas: The Healthcare Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act (R.6474) would provide $2 billion to the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Health Care program to increase remote treatment and ensure high-quality internet at health care facilities.
  4. Making Access to Telehealth Permanent: The Helping Ensure Access to Local TeleHealth (HEALTH) Act (R. 7187) would make Medicare payments for telehealth at federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics permanent.

The Future of Telehealth Access

While these bills are an important step toward creating a more connected, better-prepared healthcare system, we need to think strategically about how we arm ourselves with these new capabilities and how we can ensure a more equitable healthcare future. With congressional support and technical ingenuity, we believe that telehealth can become the standard for healthcare in the near future.

Read the full blog post by Emily Field of RH Strategic.

RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. They provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.

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