The American Medical Association (AMA) has advocated that the U.S. Senate should make the recent expansion of telehealth services permanent. During the Coronavirus pandemic, access to telehealth services for both patients and their providers was temporarily expanded across the nation.
As a reminder, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) increased access to Medicare-funded telehealth services as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. Through the utilization of telehealth/telemedical services, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act enables Medicare beneficiaries to access a wider range of medical services from doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Prior to this change, Medicare would only pay medical professionals for telemedicine services if certain conditions were met. In order for patients to obtain telemedicine treatments, they typically had to travel to what Medicare refers to as an origination site. Patients could not receive medical services in the comfort of their own homes.
The AMA, as well as over 300 other health care related groups, companies and organizations, are asking the Senate to continue the current telehealth regulations and policies. They are urging the U.S. Senate to continue regulatory and payment telehealth flexibilities for at least two more years. This follows the lead of a recent bipartisan 416-12 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A Valuable Tool:
Telehealth is a valuable tool for treatments and is essential to providing care. The AMA argues that the Senate needs to understand this fact and permanently expand telehealth services. They advocate that telehealth has “been able to reach many patients” who previously had a difficult time accessing services through virtual care. In fact, patients have come to expect telehealth services as part of their treatment options.
However, another continuation of short-term telehealth extensions are not what patients or physicians need. The costs of investing in the technology and clinical infrastructure necessary to sustain large-scale telehealth initiatives against the uncertainty of when these telehealth policies may end must be considered by doctors, practices and healthcare organizations.
Telemedical technology and services are now an essential component of the American health care system. These services greatly improve an individual’s access to high-quality healthcare.
For example, in the state of Ohio, it has been difficult for community behavioral health centers (cbhc) and other medical facilities to provide services during the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) has provided numerous helpful updates for mental health professionals in Ohio who are providing services via the use of telehealth technology.
More communities than ever have seen the dramatic impact telehealth has had in bridging care gaps. Many of the most compelling clinical use cases for virtual/telehealth care are just now beginning to emerge. In fact, the acute labor shortages in primary care, mental health, and other fields are partially addressed in part by telehealth technologies.
A Permanent Extension & Updates:
Medical professionals are hoping the Senate will follow the House’s example this fall and pass the “Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act.” In addition to requesting a long-term extension, there is a request to include:
- Lift geographical restrictions on patients and doctors or other clinicians.
- Remove in-person requirements for telemental health treatments.
- Maintain unrestricted access to controlled substances that are clinically indicated.
- Expand consumer access to telehealth products and services.
Over the past few years, telehealth technologies have become more frequently used to deliver behavioral health care. A pattern that COVID-19 has only seemed to exacerbate.
Many people believe that using telehealth solutions can lower healthcare costs while also increasing access to medical care. Authorities have temporarily loosened HIPAA rules for healthcare professionals because to COVID-19’s effects. This has made it possible for medical experts to offer specific medical treatments to more patients.
Patients can now receive treatments remotely while lounging in the comfort of their own home thanks to the usage of videoconferencing technology in telehealth. Overall, it is likely that this tendency will last into the future.
According to findings, telemedicine treatments offer higher patient participation, more convenience, and easier access to doctors who specialize in addiction treatment. Researchers discovered that therapies like individual counseling offered through videoconferencing technologies was just as successful as more traditional in-person counseling treatments, which is not a surprise.
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