Of Counsel Emily Wein and Senior Counsel Thomas Ferrante were quoted in the mHealth Intelligence article, “What Will Happen with Telehealth When the Emergency Is Over?” which questioned whether patients and providers will continue to use telehealth services after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. Federal and state agencies have been revising guidelines in the fact of the pandemic to reduce barriers to telehealth and give providers the opportunity to try things they’ve hesitated to try before. But these new freedoms will only last as long as the emergency, and experts worry that the telehealth wave will wane if the momentum isn’t maintained.
“We’re all dealing with what’s directly in front of us right now,” said Ferrante. “But when (the pandemic) is contained, will all of this suddenly, abruptly stop?”
“It just can’t stop in one day,” he added. “There has to be some sort of transition period.”
Not all the government announcements have provided necessary clarity too. Vice President Mike Pence announced that the federal government would be issuing a regulation allowing providers to practice across state lines, but no such rule has been given yet, and many experts have questioned whether the government has the authority to do this. The flurry of activity has given hospitals and health systems plenty to consider, and many are turning to telehealth platforms and mHealth tools as they prepare for what will likely be an onslaught of patients. But Ferrante and Wein said providers need to make sure these new services are fully documented.
“Keep track of the data, the efficiencies and any cost savings they’re seeing, either now or potentially,” says Wein. “Quality metrics will be important.”
Wein said she’s seeing not just the traditional trend-setters, but many other large health systems using telemedicine technology, thus creating a sizable wave that will not only help providers get used to the technology, but push all the right buttons with the public. The more use cases, the more evidence that these platforms are effective, the more likely they’ll be supported after the emergency.
But most, if not all, of the federal and state actions taken to support telehealth and mHealth will end when the pandemic is under control, and no one has talked about what happens then.
“I can’t imagine that they’re going to undo it all,” says Wein. “Now they (providers) have used it out of necessity. Now they’ve done it, and they’ve done it in big ways, and the public has seen this and they’re going to want to continue it.”