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Where would be now, if we didn’t have Telehealth to depend on throughout the past year and some change? This is probably a question that isn’t really worth diving deeper into, but nonetheless, the healthcare realm is a changed industry with so many vendors, software companies, and resellers onboard with adopting and selling these COVID-19-friendly solutions. Taking it back in time, during April 2020 there was an uptick of 78% more Telehealth utilization than February just 31 days prior. This uptick can obviously be tied directly to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, but it’s interesting how something that seemed experimental to many became commonplace for all in such a short amount of time. On the other end of the equation, providers’ attitudes towards Telehealth also grew more positive as well, especially when hybrid options were introduced additionally. Will Telehealth strategies stick around for good, or was this just a means to end in this catastrophic worldwide event?
Prior to COVID-19, Telehealth and Tele-Medicine properties were pretty limited to individuals who lived in more rural areas, for they had no means of traveling to their local GP or hospital easily. This service prioritized those who were disabled in ways both geographically and physically. Now, it would appear that Telehealth is here to stay. Whenever the pandemic reaches its ending point, it’s likely that healthcare providers will continue to offer Telehealth solutions as many states and regions have reported overwhelmingly positive adoption rates and integrations throughout the point of the pandemic, why would providers stop that upward trend now?
The Telehealth Modernization Act, proposed and enacted within the Senate in February 2021, works to modify requirements relating to the coverage of Telehealth services under the Medicare umbrella. Specifically, the bill extends certain flexibilities that were initially authorized during the public health emergency relating to COVID-19. Among other things, the bill allows (1) rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers to serve as the distant site; (2) the home of a beneficiary to serve as the originating site for all services; and (3) all types of practitioners to furnish Telehealth services, as determined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
According to Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Telehealth has been a godsend for millions of Americans receiving healthcare services during the pandemic, while ensuring the spread of the virus stays at a minimum. Updating our laws to solve today’s challenges through commonsense approaches will ensure more access to healthcare and a safer aging population. The TEConnect Podcast crew, comprised of Dean Reverman and John Martin, met up with Agilant’s Mike DeLibero back in March of this year to talk more about the significance in embracing technology points within the healthcare spectrum to combat the COVID-19 virus. Telehealth was brought up a few times, and if you’re interested in diving deeper into this ongoing conversation, be sure check out Episode 41 to learn more from some of our favorite Subject Matter Experts in the channel!
Connectivity Can be an Issue
Virtual occurrences have always been popular amongst the younger crowds, specifically younger Millennials and Generation Z, through their social media habits and ability to converse with each other from their mobile devices. Younger patients often don’t run into any troubles when it comes to navigating through a Primary Care Physicians’ Telehealth app to locate their prescriptions or schedule an appointment. The older generations, if they don’t have anyone around to help them, do struggle with this new technological advancement. Many doctoral staff members have found that many aged patients do not have the luxury of a smartphone or a mobile device that includes the amount of monthly data necessary to connect them to a healthcare professional.
Additionally, for patients who primary language isn’t English, often times healthcare practices don’t readily have the staff to accommodate the patients’ language barrier. As facilities are beginning to work out any issues that may be presented, healthcare officials are figuring it out, error by error. For patients, telemedicine requires a level of understanding of various equipment pieces such as webcams, computers, and software knowledge especially among those who don’t identify as tech-savvy individuals. Providing that educational direction is vital when it comes to coaching patients how to ensure their connectivity is strong enough, and also how to download and navigate their way around a healthcare provider’s app. While video visits might better suit doctors and medical staff, for they can actually observe the state of the patient, it might be difficult for elderly patient to understand, so audio phone calls being an option is helpful as well. Once the playing field is level for all age groups and demographics, we can seemingly see this trend develop into a commonplace practice for all healthcare practices.