Tuesday, September 07, 2021
Mandatory telehealth coverage orders expiring in many states, hampering its potential to help in rural areas
Telehealth could help close rural health-care access gaps, and many hoped that its increasing popularity during the pandemic would lay the groundwork for long-term use, “but as the second summer of the pandemic wanes, state emergency orders that mandate coverage of telehealth visits and waive the requirement for out-of-state medical licenses are expiring," Massachusetts journalist and physician Trisha Pasricha reports for The Washington Post. "In their wake, more patients are discovering that telemedicine is no longer an option for them. With a fourth wave of coronavirus cases surging, the safety of in-person visits, especially for immunocompromised patients, remains a concern."
Rural areas have been slower to adopt telehealth, especially in hospitals, because of logistical concerns like already too-low government reimbursements and lack of broadband. But, the technology "held promise for the long term. Its potential to reach individuals in remote communities, nursing homes, and low-income neighborhoods could mitigate barriers to care," Pasricha writes. "The release from certain restrictions enabled patients to hear expert opinions without moving from their dining room tables. In turn, it gave physicians the opportunity to see patients across the country without obtaining licenses in multiple states. Telehealth also allowed providers an informative window into the actual living environments that shaped their patients’ well-being."