Telehealth, the use of information technology to remotely diagnose, treat, or monitor patients could transform health care by making it more affordable and accessible. COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the traditional health care system, creating barriers to access for nearly everyone. Telehealth offers an alternative solution to this problem by focusing on patient-centered care—typically via an app—that is more convenient and affordable than traditional in-office visits.
The proof is in the pudding: Patients are becoming more inclined to use telehealth services. According to a 2016 survey, 80 percent of telehealth patients accessing care via a mobile app preferred telehealth service over in-person visits. The advent of telehealth is especially beneficial for rural Americans, who lack easy access to health care facilities.
As such, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has increased the availability of telehealth for patients on these government-run programs, which has resulted in lower costs and greater access to high caliber care.
In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to consider alternative methods to increasing health care access, proving that in-person care isn’t always the best option for all patients.
Although opponents of telehealth are concerned that patients will utilize telemedicine instead of seeing a physician in-person, which is considered the gold standard, this is flawed thinking at best. In reality, telemedicine creates an opportunity to receive good care when it otherwise wouldn’t have been a possibility because of scheduling constraints or lack of transportation for patients.
Telehealth is not a replacement for in-person care. Obviously, some health care matters cannot be addressed or resolved over a telephone. However, it is a superb compliment to traditional in-person care. Given the technological advances over the past several years, telehealth will likely expand as more Americans become accustomed to it.
For many patients, traveling far distances to a physical health care facility for an appointment is simply not a viable option. And in many circumstances, travel might not be necessary. Ample telehealth services would provide patients opportunities to maintain their health from home. With the exciting technological advancements at hand, it is commonsense public policy to allow patients to seek care virtually as much as possible.
In Arizona, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would permanently expand access to telemedicine. Rep. Regina Cobb (R-AZ) introduced legislation that would expand telehealth services in the Grand Canyon State. This policy is good for patients and providers because it would remove barriers to affordable health care.
Innovation within the health care marketplace is inevitable, and state legislatures must adapt with the times. A 2017 report on the global telemedicine market estimates the telehealth market is poised to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 16.3 percent over the next decade, reaching approximately $78.3 billion by 2025, according to Accuray Research LLP.
Overall, telehealth services offer a wide variety of convenient options for patients. And in the era of COVID-19, flexible care options couldn’t be more needed. A recent study found that more than 40 percent of patients have delayed or avoided medical procedures and appointments out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Using telehealth during COVID-19 has been successful and expanded what doctors can do.
Telehealth is a useful tool that would expand access to those who are unable to attend in-office visits. States should consider removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to telehealth providers. Reforms states are considering include allowing doctor-patient relationships to be established remotely and requiring health care payers, such as insurance companies, to provide reimbursement for telehealth services at the same rates as comparable in-person visits.
AHRQ Finds Telemedicine Clinically Effective
Politico’s Mohana Ravindranath examines a new study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that found telemedicine is clinically effective. The study was unable to find conclusive evidence to determine if telemedicine is more cost-effective, however.
The Promise of Telehealth For Hospitals, Health Systems, and Their Communities
This study from the American Hospital Association examines the potential benefits of telehealth. The study’s researchers focus on how telehealth is being used by hospitals and considers how this important innovation helps patients and providers alike.
Telemedicine Facts that May Surprise You
In this article published by ChironHealth.com, Lauren Cranford examines several research studies and polls that prove telemedicine is popular and effective.
Telemedicine … Across State Borders
Shirley Svorny, professor of economics at California State University at Northridge, discusses the value of using telemedicine services, how allowing telehealth care across state lines would improve the availability of care, the barriers to telehealth expansion, and some reforms state and federal legislators should consider that would expand telemedicine services.