The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a lot of dangers and uncertainty. It completely redefined our definition of normal. In some cases, this has been bad, but, in some cases, we’ve seen changes for the good as well.
One example of this is the rising popularity of telehealth in the healthcare industry. And it seems this Medicare telehealth expansion is here to stay. Keep reading to learn more about it.
What is Telehealth?
Just like everything else around us has evolved with the advancements in technology, so has the healthcare industry. You can witness this with the advent of telehealth. Telehealth is defined as the provision and facilitation of various healthcare services delivered primarily through digital communication and telecommunication technologies.
It includes health information services, medical care, self-care, patient education and much more. Some of the technologies used for telehealth include video conferencing platforms, mobile health apps, remote patient monitoring (RPM), and other similar tools.
Telehealth is a broad term that covers all healthcare activities and services that are carried out through telecommunications. It includes the electronic communication between providers and transmission of health data from people wearing digital devices as well.
COVID-19 and Medicare Telehealth Expansion
Telehealth is by no means a new concept. It has been around for a while and is used to provide healthcare services in remote areas. However, the current pandemic situation has made telehealth even more relevant and crucial for healthcare practices.
As the virus spreads, people were advised against visiting hospitals to avoid exposure and asked to stay at home as much as possible. Compared to business shutdowns, the inability to visit your doctor is more than just an inconvenience. It can be a serious problem for people requiring regular doctor visits.
This is where the Medicare telehealth expansion began. Telehealth was the ideal solution for people who wanted to consult their physicians without actually risking their life. Medicare’s beneficiaries c now easily talk to their doctors through video chat, a phone call, or any other digital communication platform without risking exposure.
Moreover, regardless of how rapidly technology is advancing, there has always been a lack of similar growth within the regulatory environment. However, during the current situation, there has been support from the federal and state governments as well to make telehealth services more easily deliverable for healthcare providers and more accessible for people.
Another factor that has led to the Medicare telehealth expansion is the widespread use of digital communication technologies within society. Most people these days own a smartphone or computer with an internet connection through which they can communicate with the physicians remotely.
As a result of all this, more than 10 million beneficiaries have used telehealth services since March as compared to the approximate 13,000 appointments that were taking place before the pandemic .
Is Medicare Telehealth Expansion Here to Stay?
While all that sounds great, the real question is that what is the future of Medicare telehealth? Is Medicare telehealth expansion here to stay? Well, considering all benefits of telehealth, it does seem like it.
Besides all the safety reasons, telehealth is extremely beneficial, if not crucial, for making healthcare services more accessible. Telehealth helps bridge the gap between healthcare providers and all those people who can’t access it due to mobility limitations or those living in rural areas without any doctor or healthcare services of any kind.
Through telecommunication, these people can avail healthcare services remotely. Alternatively, even if you don’t have any mobility issues and can easily reach out to a physician near you, with telehealth, you have the option of consulting specialists whose services you might not be able to access otherwise.
Another big reason why Medicare telehealth expansion seems like it will stick around is that it is quite convenient. Patients don’t have to wait in long queues at the doctor’s office for just a 10-minute consultation.
Considering the current environment, no-contact doctor visits are even more important to keep people safe. Therefore, as long as the corona crisis continues, telehealth will remain a popular option for availing healthcare services.
25% of Americans over the age of 50 reported that they had availed some kind of telehealth services in the three months after the pandemic hit. In comparison, only 4% of the same group had any remote health visits last year. This just goes to show how well the entire concept of telehealth is being received in current times.
On the Flip Side
Despite all its benefits, telehealth still has a few drawbacks that might make any expansion short-lived. For starters, it can not completely replace in-person doctor visits. Patients will still have to come to the hospital or clinic to get any blood work done or for imaging tests.
Additionally, they will also have to physically meet their doctor if the treatment involves a more skilled and hands-on procedure. Another big factor to consider is the fact that telehealth provides healthcare services over a digital channel, which can easily be hacked into. This is quite concerning as it could disclose confidential information regarding the patients being treated.
Furthermore, for telehealth to be truly successful, it has to be available for all. This means that telehealth equipment and facilities first need to be available for the healthcare providers so that they can then make it accessible for others.
However, not all healthcare practices can afford this. Besides that, while some insurance companies are covering some parts of telehealth, they don’t cover all of it, and this leads to expensive telemedicine bills for patients.
All in all, there’s no doubt that for now, the Medicare telehealth expansion is here to stay. From patients to healthcare providers to medical insurance payers, it holds great potential for all.
Moreover, there are still a lot of changes taking place with regards to what services are included in Medicare telehealth, how much coverage it has, etc. That’s why you need a competent medical billing company to make sure you are getting full compensation for your traditional as well as telehealth services.