The Case for Telehealth Reform

By the EHR Association

The expanded access to telehealth enabled under the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) has been transformational and served to engrain virtual care into the nation’s healthcare landscape – improving access and outcomes. Healthcare providers have risen to the challenge of meeting patients’ expectations for telehealth services by making substantial investments into new technologies that have so far carried them through the pandemic. 

However, despite ongoing surges and the emergence of new variants, many of the telehealth flexibilities that have helped dramatically improve patient access to care will expire later this year unless the Biden Administration extends the COVID-19 PHE  – which must be renewed every 90 days. Should that happen, the impact to public health programs and private healthcare delivery alike will be significant. 

Even if the PHE is extended, the uncertainty generated by its temporary nature is impacting all aspects of healthcare.

Even if the PHE is extended, the uncertainty generated by its temporary nature is impacting all aspects of healthcare. Healthcare organizations must decide if they can risk dedicating finite financial resources to maintaining the technological and clinical infrastructure required to continue offering telehealth programs at the level to which patients are now accustomed, when the possibility exists that Congress may ultimately decide against making the changes allowed under the PHE permanent.

The EHRA has joined 336 other healthcare organizations in encouraging Congress to eliminate the uncertainty and chart a path forward with respect to permanent comprehensive telehealth reform. The group recently submitted a letter asking Congress to:  

  1. Authorize the continuation of all current telehealth waivers through December 31, 2024. 
  2. Require HHS complete all feasible evaluations related to telehealth by fall 2023 and combine findings into a single overarching dashboard with recommendations to inform permanent telehealth legislation by Congress. 
  3. Take up permanent, evidence-based telehealth legislation for implementation in 2024.

The work done to advance telehealth under the PHE has established virtual care as a fundamental aspect of the nation’s healthcare system that can continue to  improve patient access to quality care well beyond the pandemic – a system Congress can bring into the into the 21st century by helping ensure the innovative delivery models implemented to fight COVID-19 are used to effectively modernize U.S. healthcare delivery. 

The recommendations outlined in the letter to Congress have the potential to provide significant relief to patients and providers who are concerned about Congress’s intent and commitment to telehealth after the end of the COVID-19 PHE. Read the complete letter to learn more about our concerns and recommendations for the path forward to ensure we maintain the telehealth momentum gained.

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