The past year forced hospitals and health systems to reimagine care delivery—including an almost overnight transition to telehealth. As the country continues to fight to emerge from the pandemic, hospitals are applying lessons learned during COVID-19 to sustain and build upon successes in delivering high-quality, accessible care via telehealth. At a recent Vizient-hosted Congressional briefing, members shared lessons learned and what is needed to support continued care delivery via telehealth in both rural and urban communities.
“Telehealth is just one tool in the toolbox that providers have to help increase access to care, and it’s a critical component,” says Shoshana Krilow, senior vice president, public policy and government relations, Vizient. “Patients cannot risk going backward. It is vitally important that telehealth support continues and that hospitals are given some assurance that patient access to these services will continue as they envision how care will be provided going forward.”
Making needed telehealth flexibilities permanent
During the briefing, Vizient’s Saloni Jain, vice president, advanced analytics and informatics, served as moderator and started the discussion by highlighting key trends in data regarding telehealth utilization during the pandemic. Panelists representing Bryan Health, CentraCare and Stanford Health Care discussed how their telehealth services have evolved and what the health care industry needs to continue delivering high-quality telehealth services, including:
Revised legislative and regulatory framework—As hospitals move past the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, there is a need to maintain several of the flexibilities provided in laws, regulations and licensure requirements, such as geographic and originating site requirements and an expanded list of telehealth services covered by Medicare.
Appropriate reimbursement—Hospitals need greater clarity about the future of telehealth reimbursement as they continue to make strategic telehealth investments to support the patients and communities they serve. Inadequate reimbursement threatens the ability for hospitals to continue providing and enhancing their telehealth services.
Increased access to broadband—Patient and provider access, particularly for rural and underserved communities, is essential to telehealth services. Congress must increase funding to increase access to broadband and support technical aspects of telehealth services.
Focus on increasing patient connection and trust—Trust is central to the patient-physician relationship. As hospitals continue to embrace telehealth and other technologies, establishing strong connections and trust with patients should remain at the forefront of planning efforts.
Read more about what members shared with federal lawmakers during the congressional briefing in the Vizient blog.