Increasing telehealth equity will advance patient care

AMA News Wire

Increasing telehealth equity will advance patient care

27 December 2023

The use of telehealth increased out of desperate need during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but its potential as an integral part of modern medicine was demonstrated years earlier. Now that patients and physicians have expressed overwhelming support for virtual care, the time has come for the health insurance industry to increase coverage parity for services, whether they are delivered in-person or via telehealth. Failure to do so jeopardizes the future of telehealth.

The AMA strongly supports coverage parity that requires payers to cover a service via telehealth if it is also covered in-person and can be delivered remotely while meeting the standard of care. Could. The AMA also supports fair and equitable payment requirements that are applied uniformly across the full range of clinical services. Payment must be fair and equitable, regardless of whether the service is provided through audio-only means, audio-video hookup, or in person.

More than 40 states have telehealth coverage parity laws and many have implemented payment parity, but much work still needs to be done. It is interesting to note that before the COVID-19 public health emergency, only 10 states required pay parity. Twenty-one states now permanently require payers to implement payment parity for all telehealth services, while eight more states have adopted similar policies with caveats (such as only for certain specialties).

Telehealth helps physicians meet patients’ needs in a comprehensive and cost-effective manner. That’s why the AMA emphasizes the support of telehealth as one of the five pillars of our recovery plan for America’s physicians, and we are continually working to ensure that physicians have this technology at their disposal. Have the tools, research, and resources needed to seamlessly integrate into practices. ,

Telehealth allows physicians to promote continuity of care by increasing access outside of normal clinic hours. Telehealth can also reduce the impact of physician shortages among disadvantaged populations. Also in rural areas. Additionally, this technology could help physicians better manage heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases among their patients, and help prevent patients from delaying care for conditions that result in emergency department visits. You may have to visit a doctor, stay in the hospital, or worse if not diagnosed. Telehealth promotes communication between patients and physicians and strengthens the trust found at the center of that relationship.

Earlier this year, the AMA House of Delegates addressed the need for greater equity in telehealth by adopting a policy to expand digital literacy and strengthen efforts to reach members of historically marginalized and minority communities. The AMA Future of Health Immersion Program and our Telehealth Implementation Playbook are two of the many free resources we offer online to help physicians expand and optimize telehealth services through peer-to-peer training and other methods Are.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicare paid for only a limited number of telehealth services, and did so only for patients who lived in rural areas and who traveled to a medical facility to receive them. The AMA led the fight to remove these and other limitations so that patients across the country can access telehealth services, and receive them in their own homes. A 2021 survey revealed that 85% of responding physicians use telehealth services.

When the federally declared COVID-19 public health emergency ended in May, it ensured that new policies promoting telehealth expansion would remain a priority for the AMA. Our advocacy helped secure passage of federal legislation that extended pandemic-related telehealth flexibilities through 2024. Currently, we are supporting the Connect for Health Act of 2023, a bipartisan proposal now pending in Congress that would make Medicare pandemic-related flexibilities permanent.

Telehealth has become an essential element of health care delivery today, and coverage and payment for services via telehealth must be part of that equation. It is time to ensure that payers fully recognize the important role of this technology by ensuring coverage parity as well as fair and equitable payment for telehealth services. The AMA is committed to a health system in which patients have regular access to remote care, and physicians are compensated fairly for our time and expertise in providing that care.

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