This year has challenged many sectors to seek ways to continue their operations while complying with stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines.
When it comes to non-urgent medical care, providers turned to the practice of telemedicine. Before COVID-19, there were many strict regulations in place governing how and where telemedicine can be used. Telemedicine regulations govern many things including which providers can bill for telemedicine services, what acceptable originating site (patient location) for telemedicine appointments are, etc. Consequentially, many patients did not have access to telemedicine because they did not fall under the categories listed in the policies.
As the COVID-19 emerged, many of the regulations and policies governing telemedicine have been loosened and continuously updated to accommodate the current state of emergency. These changes brought an unexpected outcome of establishing the benefits of telemedicine by helping patients continue their treatment with doctors remotely without the risk and fear of virus illness contraction. Many patients that would normally not be able to access telemedicine were able to receive care from the comfort of their homes and get timely follow-ups and refills.
However, most of the current regulations allowing access to telemedicine are only temporary and will not be valid once the COVID-19 public health emergency is over. There is a strong need for congress to make access to telehealth permanent and update the pre-COVID-19 telemedicine regulations.
Virtual care has proven to be beneficial and can have a critical role as a supplemental tool in the future of medical care.
ATA has provided a document listing variety of issues regarding telemedicine practice, the policies and regulations governing them before and during COVID-19, as well as their recommendations for new policies for the post-COVID-19 world.