During the pandemic, medical providers and their patients had to quickly transition to telehealth platforms to communicate instead of in-person office or clinic visits. My mother had a knee replacement on March 10, 2020. She was scheduled to have physical therapy in the local rehabilitation center the week after she returned home from the hospital. Unfortunately, the medical facility closed due to the pandemic. My mother and the physical therapist had to quickly adapt to telehealth visits. Initially, the health care system did not have a process for physical therapy telehealth. They started with phone calls without video for several weeks before moving to FaceTime on an iphone and ipad, and eventually Zoom visits. This allowed my mother to receive her needed physical therapy and exercise guidance. She has recovered and is now enjoying strolls with my father.
Recently, a bipartisan group of 50 senators reintroduced a bill to ensure that Americans continue to have access to telehealth following the Public Health Emergency. Titled the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021, the legislation will expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare. It will also make permanent the telehealth flexibilities made possible during COVID-19. Additionally, CONNECT for Health Act aims to improve health outcomes and make it easier for patients to safely access their medical providers through technology.
The CONNECT for Health Act was first introduced in 2016. Our world changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, the use of telehealth sharply increased so that people could avoid hospitals and other health care settings. Now, we can readily see the benefits from ensuring access to telehealth care in the home. Sir Winston Churchill said, “never waste a good crisis.” The expansion of telehealth may be one of the positive outcomes from our last year.
Three things to learn about this week:
- Trends in the Use of Telehealth in 2020
- CMS Flexibilities to Access Telehealth
- Connect for Health Act of 2021 Summary