Amazon and Walmart Join Providers in Lobbying the Senate to Expand Telehealth Policies

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Amazon and Walmart have joined a chorus of hospitals, provider groups and telehealth organizations in lobbying the US Senate to expand the flexibility of telehealth, such as removing in-person requirements for virtual behavioral health and increasing access to virtual health in the commercial marketplace.

As it stands, these policies – enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – are set to expire 151 days after the end of the public health emergency. PHE is currently scheduled to end in October, although health officials expect the Biden administration to do so PHE . extension At that time, according to Politico.

Other current telehealth flexibility includes provisions to waive provider and patient location restrictions, and facilitate access to clinically appropriate controlled substances without personal requirements.

In the Shared message As for the Senate leadership, more than 370 organizations said the short-term nature of the temporary policies is adding uncertainty to the health care system.

“Providers must balance the costs of investing in the technology and clinical infrastructure needed to maintain large-scale telehealth programs against the uncertainty of when these telehealth policies will end,” the groups wrote. “Moreover, patients who use telehealth as part of their care plan face the possibility of involuntary return to in-person care.”

They said this is particularly concerning for anyone using virtual care to access experts at longer distances, as well as those who receive continuous remote care for chronic conditions.

Other signatories to the letter include the American Telemedicine Association, the Consumer Technology Association, the Connected Health Initiative, the Alliance for Connected Care and HIMSS. HIMSS is the parent company of Healthcare Finance News.

What is the effect

In calling for a two-year extension of the flexibility of telehealth, the organizations behind the letter argued that virtual care is now an essential part of the US health care system — a system that has been shown to improve access and continuity of care.

“While many of the most urgent clinical use cases for virtual care are only now emerging, more communities than ever before have experienced the powerful impact that telehealth has had in closing gaps in care,” the letter reads. “Telehealth helps address crisis level in mental health, primary care and other workforce shortages.”

The organizations added that historically disadvantaged communities now have additional support. But, they said, without “legal certainty,” the work of building infrastructure, trust and relationships with communities had begun to falter.

The letter calls for the passage of the Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Promotion Act, which the House passed 416 to 12, and said Congress should continue to press for a permanent extension.

Big trend

The current PHE, signed on July 15, will expire in mid-October. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra Promise to give providers 60 days notice before declaring the end of the public health emergency.

The notice gives hospitals and other providers time to prepare for the end of waivers and other flexibility that have been put in place during COVID-19.

The Uniform Appropriations Act of 2021 expanded access to telehealth services for diagnosing, evaluating, or treating mental health disorders after the end of PHE.

The COVID-19 Telehealth Advancement Act, which passed the house In July, it will allow federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to operate as a remote site, or as a site for a health care practitioner; It will allow beneficiaries to receive telehealth services at any location, regardless of type or location; Any type of practitioner will be permitted to provide telehealth, subject to approval by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; It will continue to cover audio-only assessment, management and behavioral health services.

Despite the advantages of telehealth, there are also frustrations, according to recently released UnitedHealth Group research. The survey of 240 healthcare providers showed a majority (69%) consider telehealth convenient, but another 28% described virtual care as frustrating.

While these may seem contradictory prescriptions, providers have thrown some clarity in their thinking, with 58% saying they are frustrated with the quality of care they can provide through virtual platforms, and 55% saying they have to manage patient expectations for virtual visits. Half of the respondents were bothered by the technical details that come with navigating telehealth.

Telehealth continues to be popular among patients, although its appeal has diminished somewhat. December 2021 Rock Health Survey It found that in 2020, 53% of participants were more satisfied with the virtual care of live video than with in-person interactions. This satisfaction decreased somewhat in 2021, however, with only 43% of respondents reporting the same.

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Send an email to the author: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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