ATA Explores Post-Pandemic Telehealth Use

Following U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Telehealth Association (ATA) is collaborating with Congress and a number of government agencies to determine the future of policies and funding for telehealth services. The pandemic’s public health emergency must be reviewed every 90 days. As a result, U.S. Congress will be required to examine the renewal by Mid-October. In a webinar conducted by the ATA, experts examined how federal and state telehealth rules may change as Congress considers whether telehealth should continue to play a significant role in healthcare provision. 

Quinn Shean, strategic adviser at Tusk Ventures and the state policy advisor for ATA and ATA Action, said that federal regulations governing telehealth payments and provider practices are strict. However, even if providers do not treat Medicare clients, the policy trickles down. Prior to the pandemic, patients were required to be in a clinical environment or in a remote place in order to be eligible for telehealth coverage. However, once the public health emergency ends, the waivers are taken away from Medicare patients. 

When considering which telehealth policies to put in place following the pandemic, Congress must consider states’ priorities as states have different policies regarding telehealth coverage requirements for public and private health plans, payment for telehealth services, and eligibility to perform reimbursable services. Furthermore, the methods that states govern synchronous and asynchronous telehealth and remote patient monitoring vary. They differ in terms of what qualifies as a legitimate patient-provider connection, the types of providers that can conduct telehealth, and whether practitioners from other states are permitted to treat residents of the state remotely without obtaining a license.

In addition, the ATA is collaborating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to address the issue of prescribing controlled substances to patients via online services. Although telemedicine has frequently provided treatment where there was no prior access to healthcare, many of the challenges to telehealth policy have been founded on notions that telehealth is in some way inferior to in-patient care. Policy makers also intend to address the issue of mergers and acquisitions by retail providers like Amazon. As large companies continue to increase stakes within the telehealth sector, concerns have been raised regarding patient data privacy.