These days, telehealth is all the rage. Before COVID-19, both patients and providers were hesitant to embrace virtual care services. Now that the global health crisis has accelerated telehealth’s growth, healthcare IT experts believe it’s here to stay. In fact, the telehealth market in the U.S. is expected to surpass $25 billion within the next five years.
All that said, telehealth is growing so quickly that it can be challenging to keep current on what’s changing and how it will impact your practice. That’s why we pulled together a list of the recent telehealth news to hit the headlines.
1. COVID-19 Presents a New Chance to Make Telehealth Accessible to the Underserved
One of the biggest telehealth benefits is the ability to make care accessible in underserved communities. COVID-19 has kickstarted the initiative and encouraged industry leaders to take action by making telehealth services more widely available to vulnerable populations.
Enter the Medicaid Transformation Project, a strategic initiative that seeks to promote healthcare availability for Americans in need, while also reducing the overall cost of care. One of the project’s goals is to expand telehealth services and deploy them in a “culturally competent, equitable way.” In doing so, telehealth may be readily accessible and financially viable during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
2. The Telehealth Transformation: How US States Are Leveraging Virtual Care in Response to COVID-19
In response to COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is now offering states additional flexibilities with implications for telehealth. Before the health crisis, medical boards of 49 states required providers offering telehealth services to be licensed in the same state as the patient.
Now, in an effort to improve access to care, all 50 states (and Washington, D.C.) are temporarily waiving licensing requirements, ultimately allowing providers to deliver care via telehealth across state lines. This, in conjunction with the expansion of telehealth coverage, will no doubt have a lasting impact on the future of virtual care.
3. Community Health Centers Need a Telehealth Strategy, Resources to Survive
Community health centers (CHCs) play a vital role in care delivery, serving more than 28 million Americans in underserved communities. However, when it comes to telehealth services, many CHCs are struggling to keep up.
The use of healthcare IT has been one of the biggest barriers to telehealth adoption. Because most CHCs did not have targeted telehealth strategies and systems in place prior to COVID-19, they’re now tasked with figuring out how to catch up and implement virtual care options sooner rather than later.
4. Telehealth's Post-COVID Challenge: Integrating In-Person Care
Both patients and providers have embraced telehealth use since the onset of COVID-19 earlier this year. According to the American Telehealth Association, the challenge now will be integrating in-person care back into adapted clinical workflows.
Technological advances like home lab testing and remote patient monitoring will further advance at-home care; however, long-term telehealth sustainability will require a number of logistical changes. Creating integrated care plans that use both in-person and virtual care may be the answer to healthcare that organizations are looking for.
5. As Telehealth Becomes the New Normal, NCQA Updates Quality Measures
The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) recently approved a number of adjustments to the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures, which are used to drive quality improvement efforts. The new HEDIS updates, which will be published on July 1, include revisions that are specific to telehealth in the wake of its rapid acceleration.
These changes will align with telehealth guidance issued by CMS and other stakeholders to support the increased use of telehealth due to COVID-19. Revised measures will specify how telehealth visits can be used and the different formats that are permitted.
6. Silver Lining to Coronavirus Crisis: Telehealth May Improve Patient Adherence and Persistence
It’s hard to imagine a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic—but if there is one, telehealth just might be it. Telehealth use is not only improving access to care, but also medication adherence, which is proven to improve patient outcomes.
In many cases, telehealth technology works alongside other healthcare IT platforms to manage medication adherence virtually. By integrating with electronic health records (EHR), these solutions can provide clinicians with real-time updates on adherence to medication regimens and care plans.
Stay Up-to-Date on Trending Topics in Healthcare IT
The newfound telehealth momentum isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. Staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest headlines will help you adapt your practice to align with modern preferences. In the meantime, there are a number of other trends hitting the healthcare IT industry all the time. We’ll keep you posted!