When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit more than two years ago, everything went remote overnight. The pandemic threw the world into chaos. Now, many industries are beginning to ask some of the hard questions such as: what kind of impact did this ultimately have in different vertical markets? Today, let’s look at the impact on healthcare.
Virtual care is now a fundamental part of the U.S. healthcare system, and it will improve patient access to high-quality care well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally speaking, many patients have come to see telehealth as one of the most positive improvements to our nation’s healthcare system. Roughly 66% of voters have a positive opinion of telehealth, according to Moore Information Group.
What’s more, a majority of U.S. voters believe Congress should protect their ability and choice to see a provider via telehealth in the coming years. A whopping 81% of voters view the federal government’s decision to lift restrictions and make telehealth services temporarily available to all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic as positive.
Here’s one big challenge for healthcare: While the Biden administration may elect to extend the COVID-19 PHE (public health emergency), the fact that the PHE determination must be renewed every 90 days means it could potentially end later this year. This is creating uncertainty for the U.S. healthcare system.
Thus, at the end of January, 336 organizations, including ATA (American Telemedicine Assn.), sent a letter to Congress urging for a comprehensive permanent telehealth reform that would provide certainty to patients and healthcare providers. This focuses on specific priorities including:
- Authorize the continuation of all current telehealth waivers through Dec. 31, 2024;
- Require HHS to complete all feasible evaluations related to telehealth by fall 2023 and combine findings into a single overarching dashboard with recommendations to inform permanent telehealth legislation by congress; and
- Pass permanent, evidence-based telehealth legislation for implementation in 2024.
I must agree there have been a lot of positives to come out of remote working—telehealth being one of them. But now that we have some two yearsof experience behind us, perhaps it is time to have a real discussion about what is working and what is not working. I have seen some amazing technology ideas emerge and we need to let these solutions rise to the top to help those who are unable to have consistent access to medical treatment they deserve. COVID helped us all learn the art of the possible. Now, we need to have a comprehensive conversation about what is working—and what is not. Teleheath is certainly a great place to start. Let’s put a group of really smart people together to engage in how we move forward to get better and stronger than before pandemic. Perhaps something good can emerge out of such a tragic loss of life and we can finally say that all the lives lost (nearly 1 million in the U.S.) were not lost in vain—including the loss of my father.
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