COVID-19 pandemic has already been with us for almost 2 years. Back in early 2020, when states and the federal government rushed to proclaim a public health emergency, many patients had been concerned about whether they would continue receiving care in a matter of a lockdown. Luckily, the CMS has quickly introduced numerous waivers, that would allow hundreds of procedures to be performed via telemedicine.
Virtual care has been a life-saver for millions of patients nationwide. Imagine not having to risk your health & life while sitting in a long line for your doctor’s appointment. However, apart from this benefit to overall safety, many patients have enjoyed the fact that they have been able to get a quality payer from their preferred specialist even if they are located out of state. As COVID-19 rapidly spread across our country, many states have eased their licensing rules so outside practitioners could provide services via telehealth. Before the pandemic, doctors had to submit lots of applications and pay steep fees to get a license in every state where a patient received distant care. In addition, previously, Medicare-covered telemedicine services only for patients residing in rural areas. For now, Medicare patients are eligible to get a telemedicine service regardless of their physical location.
As good as it sounds, will this positive tendency continue once we overcome this pandemic?
While there is always hope for a better future, it is unlikely that telemedicine will retain its popularity in the post-COVID-19 world.
First, even though the pandemic is far from being over, many states have already overturned their physician licensing policies. In some places, out-of-state healthcare providers now again must become licensed in a state where their patient is physically located during a telemedicine session. In general, many states will eventually adopt pre-pandemic legislation, significantly hindering the popularity of telemedicine. With that being said, soon physicians will stop enjoying dozens of waivers and revisions introduced during the PHE.
Second, despite the fact that we are arguably already living in a half-digital world, some patients will be reluctant to use telehealth when all stay-at-home regulations are lifted. Some people believe that FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Meet will never be an alternative for an in-person doctor appointment. We tend to agree on that. Some issues may not be identified during an online visit, decreasing the overall quality of care. In addition, utilizing telecommunication services imposes a huge responsibility on healthcare providers when it comes to PHI data maintenance. Therefore, a costly affair that does not achieve the highest possible performance is not likely to succeed in the future.
There is also a positive prognosis, though. According to the research conducted by Parks Associates in mid-2021, connected health device adoption jumped dramatically from 42% in 2020 to 55% in 2021. To put it simply, patients are more inclined to utilize a digital care solution in 2021 than they were in 2020. Considering the fact that Omicron, a new highly contagious COVID-19 variant has recently been discovered at the fear of nations shutting down their borders, the era of lockdowns is not over yet. With that in mind, soon people may eventually get used to telemedicine, and will opt-out from in-person appointments because this would have become “an odd option to choose”, despite all the potential benefits.
So where do we go from here?
It is impossible to know how the pandemic will unfold. Keeping up with the news is the only plausible option.
However, regardless of what will happen to telemedicine in the future, WCH Service Bureau is always ready to handle your medical billing. Our specialists are always up to date with the most significant commercial & federal regulations. We Can Help you future proof your practice revenue regardless of the circumstances.