The Time of Telehealth: How the COVID-19 Outbreak is Changing Healthcare Delivery

Telehealth (or telemedicine) had already been enjoying increased attention in recent years due to the sharp rise of healthcare consumerism, but the COVID-19 health emergency has now firmly placed it at the forefront of the medical world. 

Already, the chances are high that the homepage of your clinic, hospital, or physician’s office has been shuffled to accommodate sizeable headers urging patients to take advantage of their telehealth services in an effort to stem the rate of COVID-19 transmission. 

The world spins solely now to curb the spread of the current pandemic, and the push towards increased telehealth awareness and accessibility comes straight from the top.

On March 17, the current administration announced expanded Medicare telehealth coverage to allow beneficiaries access to a broader range of healthcare services without having to travel to a healthcare facility. Not only does this help protect seniors who are exponentially more endangered by the virus, but also the clinicians treating them on the frontlines. 

Additionally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), report that they have expanded telehealth benefits to “ensure that all Americans—particularly high-risk individuals—are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Before this development, telehealth services were only covered for certain services and routine visits. Now, a much more comprehensive range of services in addition to common office visits are available such as mental health counseling and preventive health screenings. For any and all medical appointments that can be administered remotely, there is considerable impetus to encourage patients nationwide to do so to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

Furthermore, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in an effort to encourage even more accessibility and efficiency of telehealth services, has announced it will “not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.”

As the country reels to combat a pervasive, hidden threat, government and regulatory bodies alike are leaving no stone unturned and fervently responding to best protect the public and empower medical providers to serve patients in the safest and timeliest means available. 

While these are assuredly uncertain times at so many levels, one thing, at the very least, seems steadfast: telehealth’s arrival and its place in the future of modern healthcare practices. 

Healthcare Recruiters International (HCRI)

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