The pandemic changed many ways we function in today’s society, but the most significant changes came in the healthcare industry. Many of our doctor visits and consults were via the internet on one of many telehealth websites developed during the pandemic time frame.
The telehealth websites allowed physicians and other medical professionals to manage their patient’s health care services during a time when social distancing was necessary for the public’s health and safety. The internet brought medical care to patients who could remain in the comfort of their homes.
Advantages of Telehealth
There were many advantages to providing healthcare through telehealth technology. These advantages include:
- Easier access to healthcare for rural communities
- Easier access to healthcare for patients with limited mobility
- Safer and easier access to healthcare for patients with compromised immune systems
- Easier access to professional medical specialists
- Easier access for patients for medical consultations or advice on self-management of healthcare
- More immediate and easier access for mental health patients with mental health professionals
- A physician’s ability to monitor “at-risk” patients more closely using devices that monitor blood pressure, heart rates, oxygen levels, blood sugar levels, and certain medications
The primary difficulty with the changeover to telehealth technology has been the acceptance by insurance companies to include exceptions for payments. In the past, Medicare has dictated trends for other insurance companies to follow.
To take advantage of telehealth technology, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services needed to adopt many Medicare healthcare policy changes during the pandemic. Most of the changes were temporary and scheduled to end when the pandemic was over.
Because of the significant benefits telehealth technology has brought to the healthcare industry, Congress has approved additions and extensions to Medicare. These are a few of the extensions Congress supported:
- Medicare will pay health care providers for telehealth services to patients who are at their homes, or any other location
- Medicare pays health care providers such as physicians and nurses and will include paying qualified occupational therapists, physical therapists, audiologists, and speech pathologists.
- Medicare will continue to pay for audio-only telehealth technology
- Medicare will continue to compensate and provide support for rural communities dependent on telehealth technology
Even though the public has been made aware of how vital telehealth technology has become in filling gaps in the health care system, there are still concerns about payment and fraud abuse. Medicare and other insurance systems will be more accepting if programmers expand on advanced reporting and payment safeguards designed into the programs.
Even with the concerns insurance companies may have, the future looks promising to include telehealth technology in everyday healthcare. Patients and healthcare providers will continue to enjoy the convenience, the swift access to professional help, and the ability to remain safe from exposure to other illnesses.
In summary, telehealth technology will probably not go away, but demand will insist on expansion. In the future, we might see:
- Patient care plans including some form of virtual service
- Changes from a fee-for-service model to a value-based care model of healthcare
- Expansion of specialized physical health and mental health care options available using telehealth technology
- Longer one-on-one healthcare professional-to-patient time talking and listening
- It may become a solution to the projected shortage of healthcare professionals in the future
Presently, there is no continuity in the regulation of telehealth technology resulting in every state having different policies. It’s imperative to check with your health care insurance to evaluate coverage by your insurance policy.
Telehealth technology came to us out of necessity, but the benefits have given it staying power. The future for expansion in the field is limitless, allowing more freedom and productivity for providers and their patients.
It goes without saying that Telemedicine is our specialty. In fact, healthcare facilities look to Vesta to support in full or part, their radiology departments. Our U.S. Board Certified radiologists work nights, weekends, and even holidays so you can continue to provide quality care for your patients. Even more, Vesta works with you in terms of the format and style of the interpretation report adapting to your interpretive mode.