Telehealth is rapidly transforming the healthcare landscape, especially with COVID-19 prompting an urgent expansion of its use. By facilitating electronic exchange between medical providers and patients, telemedicine has improved health outcomes while limiting potential community spread by allowing people to receive routine care safely from their own homes. This innovative technology also helps protect vulnerable beneficiaries and keep those with mild symptoms out of hospitals as much as possible - a crucial step in mitigating further viral transmission.
Applying the emergency declaration granted under President Trump's leadership, CMS has taken dramatic steps to expand access to Medicare telehealth services. This unprecedented move allows beneficiaries increased freedom and convenience in receiving a wider range of healthcare treatments from their doctors without having required travel to medical facilities. As part of an effort by both CMS and White House Task Force teams, these benefits are designed with particularly vulnerable people at heart - ensuring they can take full advantage of easy-to-use options that promote wellbeing.
On March 6, 2020, Medicare rolled out an 1135 waiver granting unprecedented access to telehealth services throughout the country. This exciting development means that providers including doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists and licensed social workers can offer virtual care in patient's homes or other locations. To further increase healthcare accessibility for those using federal programs like Medicare - the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is providing flexibility on cost-sharing options for telehealth appointments.
Health providers now offer three innovative Virtual Care services to Medicare beneficiaries allowing them access to medical care from the comfort of their own home. These include: Telehealth visits, which provide real-time and interactive remote physician engagements; virtual check-ins where a patient can quickly connect with his/her provider via phone or video without needing an appointment for assessment purposes; and eVisits whereby online inquiries are sent directly between the patient and physician using secured messaging technology via. an online patient portal.
Convenience: Receive medical attention without having to leave your home. This is particularly beneficial for older adults, people with mobility challenges, and those living in rural areas who may have difficulty accessing traditional healthcare services.
Reduced risk of infection: During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has been crucial in reducing the risk of virus transmission. Patients can receive medical attention without having to visit hospitals or clinics, which are often the source of outbreaks.
Improved access to healthcare: Improve access to healthcare for those living in remote or underserved areas. Doctors and specialists are enabled to provide medical services to patients who would otherwise have limited options.
Cost savings: Lower healthcare costs by reducing the need for expensive in-person visits and travel while increasing efficiency by allowing doctors to see more patients in a shorter amount of time.
Increased patient engagement: Telemedicine can increase patient engagement by making it easier for patients to communicate with their healthcare providers and access their medical records.
Continuity of care: Patients can receive medical treatments and follow-ups remotely. This is especially important for patients with chronic conditions who require frequent monitoring.