Covid 19 has changed healthcare. We have seen clinic closures, overfilled emergency rooms, disruptions to routine care, a scarcity of doctors and the industry as a whole is shrinking. This is combined with social distancing and lockdowns. This whole situation has given rise to telehealth adoption and highlighted the system's weakness. As far as telehealth is concerned telepsychiatry is a boon for us, as it has helped in the pandemic to support distance health care. The pandemic has shown the need for telehealth to realize its potential as a telehealth service mechanism. There have been several changes in the telehealth industry and it had opportunities and challenges that have diversified the role of telehealth in the U.S.
Telehealth has risen during the Pandemic, as the people were not allowed to move to the hospitals. So they had to take the treatment through telehealth mode. This has created many implications in telehealth in the post-pandemic future, some of these are as under:
One of the most significant changes that have taken place after the pandemic is the pay parity between clinic care and telehealth. Earlier the low reimbursement for telehealth was viewed as a critical disincentive. Through telehealth, the clinicians can see more patients and can use telehealth to provide cost-effective services.
The concept of equity in payments had emerged to avoid incentivizing the use of telehealth encounters. Acknowledging the need for incentives, some private payers and Medicaid programs announced the payment parity for telehealth during the pandemic. Thus the payment parity is the most significant step that has caused a substantial shift in some clinics and also increased the proportion of telehealth visits from 10% before the pandemic to more than 90% of telehealth work during the pandemic.
Here the description reflects that some important telehealth changes have been implied during the pandemic. With this, some challenges and opportunities have also successfully harnessed the role of telehealth in the U.S.
As far as telehealth is concerned it requires more privacy and security. As there is great importance of secure and private channels of communication. Besides this, some clinicians may be willing from technology partners to sign the business associate agreements according to the requirement for security and privacy. In this response, a notice has been issued by the officer of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services that it will not impose any penalties for HIPAA violations that can occur during the good faith of telehealth in an emergency of COVID 19.
The privacy should not interfere with the needs of the patients to support the telehealth expansions. It is essential to revise the HIPAA regulations so that the patients should be given the responsibility and ability to share their health information with the clinical professionals. Thus it can be said that privacy and due diligence should be followed properly. It can also assist to resolve the conflicts in situations in which the need for care is not urgent. With this, there can be periodic audits to ensure the privacy parameters. However, a user-friendly approach may be possible for personal health care.
Telehealth is influenced by the geographical rules that govern medical licensing. Some states have entered into a licensing to enable out-of-state physicians to practice in their jurisdictions. On the other hand, some other states are eliminating the licensing rules and policies of telehealth services. This trend has helped the physicians of one state to provide the services to another state. However, a mechanism is required to ensure the verification of clinicians. Besides this, a guarantee should be given to the patients to maintain their privacy and confidentiality that would need to be established.
There is another approach that may involve federal telehealth practitioner licensing that can reduce the burden of compliances for physicians who are practicing telehealth in more than one state.
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The change that has been created through telehealth services during the pandemic COVID 19, cannot be reverted by the U.S. to pre-pandemic regulations. Besides this, the U.S. cannot adopt the recent changes due to a lack of support to clinicians while ensuring safety and privacy for patients, therefore a third-party regulatory path is required.
The first aspect is the issue of safety, as there should be a quality evaluation of the telehealth process. Quality evaluation is a challenging priority to accomplish in the context of traditional visits. It will not be difficult for telehealth visits.
The second element is the trade-off between privacy and ease of use. To maintain the privacy cumbersome EHR system is accessed as it can lead to Balkanisation of the information that is required or gathered by the patients and clinicians to prevent error or duplication. The healthcare data of the patients are stored in the database system that allows the need to have access to history, current medication and test results.
The next element is that the patient can not take the advantage of telehealth if the physicians are not incentivized to provide telehealth services after COVID 19. With this the payment parity might not be realized after COVID as the visits or meeting through telehealth services is shorter than the personal meet-ups. As a result, it is the most cost-effective method of providing healthcare, yet it may pose a financial threat to traditional delivery facilities.
A sophisticated approach to payment is another major aspect of telehealth after the post-pandemic. In this service, a shorter time is taken by the physician than in an in-person meeting. It directly reflects that the in-person meetings charge a higher amount. While the principle of equity suggests that the telehealth fees should be closer to a personal meeting. Thus the pay equity and the difference between reimbursement rates of virtual and in-person meetings, require more study and deeper consideration.
Thus medical technologies have assisted in the pandemic to cope with all the health issues, and telehealth is one of them. Moreover, I would say that the extended reality in healthcare has empowered the young generation with a better healthcare system. As far as telehealth is concerned it has some pros and cons but still, there are immense benefits of it, therefore, clinicians are using it even in a post-pandemic scenario.
Well, the use of telehealth services was at a hike during COVID 19 and the important lessons from this period need to be thoughtfully extracted. With this, there can be some alterations like waiving parts of HIPAA, which indicates the crisis but also suggest the areas in which a sustained regulatory change could be beneficial. There are some other issues like payment parity and equity are the prime matter of concern, in telehealth services after the post-pandemic.
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A keen observer, who loves to spend time with nature. A fun loving person, enjoys to explore the new aspects of life. Passionate about reading and learning new things. Roshni is dedicated towards her work and has worked in different professions.