The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many industries and has had an especially large impact on health care. Because of this, Congress and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services passed the use of certain programs to support providers as they continue to care for patients. One way to help was expanding telehealth to give providers an additional way to see patients.
Telehealth allows patients and their families to stay in the comfort and safety of their own home and not travel to a facility. This accessibility means patients save time driving and waiting in the office, and don’t need to take off work or pull children out of school - saving them money on gas and parking, while avoiding the risk of exposure.
Virtual doctor visits give more patients access to care, reaching a greater number of people, including those who have a difficult time leaving their homes, decreasing late arrivals and cancellations. Providers not only deliver care to more patients, but they also have the opportunity to be more efficient and intentional in their visits.
Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was meant to be done over video. However, some patients either do not have access to cameras and video technology or are unsure how to use it, so audio calls are now acceptable. This gives the at-risk population a safer way to receive the care they need while avoiding possible exposure.
Reimbursement rates for telehealth appointments are now comparable to office visits. In the past, reimbursement was mainly available to physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants; recently it has extended to physician therapists, occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists. Now, even fewer specialists need to see patients in person, and they can perform consultations and follow-up appointments virtually as well.
With telehealth’s expansion, patients can save time, money and the hassle of taking time off work or getting to a health care facility. As a result, more patients may seek necessary treatment and providers have more ways to offer care.
For more information on the federal actions to help providers deal with COVID-19, read the full article from Jeff Atkinson, professor for the Illinois Judicial Conference, in PracticeLink Magazine.