Ever since the onset of COVID-19, hospitals have been fully packed with patients experiencing more severe symptoms. Depending on the symptoms and the recommended course of treatment, hospitalized patients tend to stay in the hospital between 4 and 21 days on average.
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During the global pandemic, telehealth has experienced a rapid expansion. It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the shift in healthcare from mostly in-person care to predominantly virtual care particularly during the peak of infections. However, there is a lot of discussion on the role of telehealth in the post-pandemic world and how it will fit into the existing healthcare system.
Before the global pandemic, telehealth was considered a novelty in patient care. However, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the role of telemedicine shifted from an additional tool that was only used occasionally, to an essential tool that is used to treat many patients every day. Providers, some of whom have never used telemedicine before, had to quickly adapt and start providing virtual care to their patients. Many providers went from no telemedicine at all to almost completely operating virtually. This rapid change of treatment delivery in just a matter of months has made a significant impact on the different aspects of telehealth.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides grants to qualifying health care providers in order to help them fund the telecommunications, information, and device resources needed to deliver remote care during the COVID-19 global pandemic. As a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the program provided a total of $200 million in funding to qualified applicants. The first round of funding provided financial support to over 500 health care facilities.
Top Federal priorities for 2021 include the Telehealth Modernization Act and The Protecting Access to Post-COVID Telehealth Act that aims to make permanent changes to 1834(m) that would, amongst other things, remove constraints of the originating and geographic site and allow for the types of providers to expand. The main purpose of these measures is to ensure patient choice and satisfaction, expand reimbursement policies, and provide adequate care to underserved, at-risk, and senior populations by allowing them to choose telemedicine options and access the care they need at their homes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the increased use of telehealth tools. During the past year, many patients and providers that had never heard of telehealth or telemedicine before started using it. With all the talk about remote patient care, you may often hear the terms telehealth and telemedicine being used interchangeably, and you may wonder what is the difference between the two?
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