A group of 16 provider and industry organizations this past week launched a campaign geared toward protecting and expanding access to telehealth.
Telehealth Access for America is aimed at educating members of the public about the need to enact permanent legislation around virtual care services.
“Without action from Congress, millions of Americans who have come to rely on telehealth services will lose access to the care they value,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
Despite enjoying bipartisan support, telehealth has yet to see meaningful action from Congress in the COVID-19 era – and many advocates appear to be getting antsy.
This most recent effort has brought together a wide range of healthcare representatives, including:
- Adventist Health Policy Association
- Alliance for Connected Care
- American Heart Association
- American Hospital Association
- American Telemedicine Association
- Consumer Technology Association
- Executives for Health Innovation
- Health Innovation Alliance
- Healthcare Leadership Council
- Included Health
- Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Partnership to Advance Virtual Care
- Teladoc Health
The campaign website includes information about the flexibilities that have enabled telehealth utilization and cites studies about the modality’s benefits. It also offers users the chance to sign up for email updates about the campaign.
“Protecting and expanding access to telehealth is essential to strengthening America’s healthcare future. Congress must act to expand patient choice in every American community, meet patients where they are, and bring health care into the 21st century. We owe it to our patients to make health care access easier, and patients with Medicare should not be excluded from this opportunity,” said Dr. Brian Hasselfeld, medical director of digital health and telemedicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, in a statement.
On Tuesday, the campaign released survey results further supporting patient interest in telemedicine.
According to a poll of 1,000 U.S. voters, 66% of respondents have a positive opinion of telehealth compared with 14% with a negative view.
Eight in ten view the government’s decision to lift restrictions on telemedicine as positive, and 78% support the passage of legislation to permanently protect it.
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed the potential of telehealth – and it has given policymakers the evidence to validate our long-held beliefs around the capability of telehealth to help ensure all Americans have access to care when and where they most need it,” said Alliance for Connected Care Executive Director Krista Drobac in a statement.
“We call on policymakers to chart a clear path forward to protecting this increased access to care and continuing this vital modernization of our healthcare system,” Drobac added.
THE LARGER TREND
Data continues to emerge about telehealth utilization rates amidst COVID-19.
Most recently, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found a 63-fold jump in Medicare telehealth use during the pandemic.
But despite that huge increase, disparities endured: Black Medicare beneficiaries and those in rural areas were less likely than white, urban patients to utilize telehealth.
Indeed, many organizations have stressed the importance of ensuring telemedicine does not widen the existing digital divide in the United States.
In February, several organizations (some of whom are now behind the public education campaign) formed the Telehealth Equity Coalition, aimed at ensuring virtual care benefits everyone.
ON THE RECORD
“Telehealth is transformative for many patients who face barriers to accessing in-person services. We saw its promise during the pandemic and learned how critical it is to the future of healthcare delivery,” said Jen Covich Bordenick, CEO of Executives for Health Innovation, in a statement.
“Our members strongly support Congressional action on telehealth to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare when and where they need it,” Bordenick continued.