COVID-19 And The Rise Of Telehealth

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on August 22, 2022 # COVID-19

TelehealthCOVID-19 brought telehealth services to the people. As a result, cutting-edge health care is no longer confined to those who live within reach of a research center, university, or major medical system. Now, you can receive high-quality care no matter where you live or your health conditions.

History of Telehealth

Telehealth isn't a new concept. The Lancet, a medical journal, published an article in 1879 discussing the use of the telephone to reduce office visits. The idea of diagnosing patients with a video device was introduced in 1925. In addition, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invented home-monitoring health services.

Access to health care is part of a broader goal to improve health care quality and decrease disparities. Why is this important? The most significant home or community-based care users are those with chronic diseases. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that chronic disease makes up approximately 75% of health care disbursements.

Before COVID-19 and the rise of telehealth, people received care at their doctor's office. Yet, the Veterans Administration (VA) thought there was a better way. The VA developed a care management system that offered services tailored to a patient's unique needs. The remote disease support system relied on the use of technology.

All participating in the program felt the VA's technology-supported remote care system benefitted them. For example, using the system reduced the rates of hospitalizations and readmissions. In addition, the costs of care decreased because the length of stays in a hospital decreased. Furthermore, telehealth programs have resulted in a higher satisfaction rate, improved adherence rates, and some physical measures.

COVID-19 and the Rise of Telehealth

The pandemic pushed telehealth and its users into a new era. Users and medical professionals have accepted and embraced telehealth. Researchers and medical personnel don't see a future without telehealth. One of the main drivers for the acceptance and continued use of telehealth services occurred early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allowed for the expansion of telehealth. The acceptance of telehealth by CMS resulted in more medical professionals and their clients using telehealth to receive their medical care. The changes that boosted the use of telehealth are:

  • Medicare pays physicians the same rate for telehealth services as for in-office visits.
  • Patients can be anywhere for their appointments.
  • Patients can establish a relationship with a provider who offers telehealth services.
  • Physicians can provide telehealth appointments where they're not licensed to treat patients.
  • Private insurance agencies agreed the cost of a telehealth visit would be the same as an in-office visit.
  • Co-pays for telehealth appointments were also to remain the same as in-office visits.

Telehealth Reduces Healthcare Costs

Health care costs go beyond what you spend at the doctor's office or the pharmacy. In addition, attending doctor's visits can take a personal toll on you. Depending on how many doctors, specialists, or other medical care is received, scheduling time off from work is challenging. Telehealth provides you the opportunity to schedule your virtual visits on your availability. For example, you can meet with a medical professional during your lunch break. Telehealth saves you time and money.

Positive Effects of Telehealth

Telehealth was initially employed to help medical professionals provide their clients' care during the initial phases of COVID-19. Doctors, physical, occupational, and mental health therapists continued to monitor or treat people. The use of telehealth technology during COVID-19 ensured you would receive continuous care despite the pandemic.

Additionally, the toll of quarantine and social distance regulations affected people's well-being. During the first year of the pandemic, more people sought mental health care than in the previous year. Telehealth provided much-needed access to therapists, counselors, and social workers. You may have used telehealth to begin or continue your mental health care.

Telehealth and Access to Care

Technology changes how you or others see the world. For example, you have greater access to various services previously limited to specific populations or locations. Now, because of technology, anyone can connect with much-needed assistance. In addition, sharing information expands how doctors in rural or remote areas care for their clients.

Previously, cutting-edge care was developed and employed in urban or the immediate towns around research, teaching, or comprehensive care center. Telehealth evened out the odds for those who need care for chronic diseases. Sharing information or accessing care from a center that is typically inaccessible to you decreases disparities. Your doctor can treat you with the same standard of care as those in urban areas. Equal access to care because telehealth can improve your health outcome while protecting you from the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Additionally, telehealth can connect you or your doctor with a pharmacist. You can discuss the effects, side effects, and any concerns you have about your medication with your doctor and pharmacist at the same time. Telehealth opened the door for meaningful conversations with pharmacists and doctors while you're in the chat.

What else can telehealth do for you? Your doctor can hold a team meeting with you, your specialists, and themselves. Comprehensive medical team meetings provide an opportunity for everyone in the meeting to discuss your care needs. These meetings can also address disparities in care or additional requirements.

Telehealth can also change how clinical trials are performed—expanding the protocols of a clinical trial to include patients who can't travel to the research or comprehensive care center benefits both scientists and you. You can participate in a clinical trial that could help you.

The Future of Telehealth

Telehealth is firmly entrenched in the healthcare system. Doctors and patients appreciate the ease of access and flexibility it provides. But, will insurance companies continue to deliver the same or similar payments as they did during the initial phases of COVID-19?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took various steps during the initial phase of COVID-19 to increase awareness and use of telehealth services. However, many of these services will phase out or change after the public health emergency created by COVID-19 subsides.

The current public health emergency declaration ended on July 14th. However, President Biden has approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2022. The Act extends the protections of the public health emergency act for 151 days after the expiration of the Act. The permanent changes that will occur after the 151-day waiting period ends are:

  • Medicare patients will receive telehealth services for mental health care in their homes or any part of the country if conditions are met.
  • The CY 2022 Telehealth Update Medicare Physician Fee Schedule codified continued coverage of telehealth services for Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Clinics.

COVID-19 and telehealth revolutionized how you receive your medical care. The positive health outcomes and responses have made telehealth something that isn't going away.

This publication was supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $160,000 with 100% funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS or the U.S. government.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.