One of the reasons virtual patient care took off during the COVID-19 pandemic was due to waivers at the federal and state levels that removed long-standing rules and regulations. In this episode, we talk about the future of telehealth now that pandemic restrictions are starting to be lifted. Rob Havasy speaks with Jody Hoffman, manager for policy of the personal connected health alliance for HIMSS and David Gray, director of government relations for HIMSS about change coming and what to expect.
This podcast episode discussed what happened when Congress gave authority to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive some of the Medicare telehealth restrictions. The goal was to increase access to care via telehealth while patients couldn’t go to in-person appointments—and to allow for insurance coverage that would pay for visits.
Hoffman and Gray discussed the early part of the pandemic in 2020 when telehealth visits spiked, reaching a peak of up to 70% of all healthcare visits. Prior to that, virtual care accounted for about 3% of visits. Gray talked about the impact of waivers and what to expect moving forward post-pandemic. As remote appointments decrease and stabilizes to around 5% of visits, questions remain about what will happen with waivers, payments and usage.
Can virtual care continue to be in demand when the public health emergency ends? Will waivers expire and telehealth usage go away? Do we have the appetite to move forward with digital health services? This podcast discussion could help providers and healthcare organizations consider next steps regarding equipment investments, changes to the way they practice, and when to make those changes. Many have said we can’t ever go back—patients like the convenience. And policy makers do not want outdated laws on the books; they have advocated for new policies based on accurate data and information.
Questions around the future of telehealth are yet to be answered completely, but now is the time to pay attention to the new developments affecting virtual care. Though it will not be the dominant delivery method of healthcare, it is essential to consider, discuss and plan for future decisions regarding digital health services in an age beyond waivers.
The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.
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