This last July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services put forward the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule, which includes a proposal to extend telehealth benefits through 2023 as opposed to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physicians have met this proposal with some resistance- while they applaud the extension, many have questioned why changes to these specific benefits cannot be established permanently.
The frequency of telehealth utilization in the first months of the pandemic was 78 times higher than pre-pandemic usage, according to a report from McKinsey. That number has stabilized down to 38 times pre-pandemic levels, or 20% of all medical appointments. Of course, this is in part to the circumstances of COVID-19, but telehealth will undoubtedly remain simply due to its convenience, especially with consultation visits. In a letter to the CMS, the 60 provider and health IT groups that co-signed argue that “Given the addition of a record number of eligible beneficiaries, telehealth may be the only way beneficiaries can gain access, especially those in rural or underserved communities.”
When remote work became commonplace at the start of the pandemic, employees saw that they were saving money on transportation costs, employers were able to boost their budget by trimming unnecessary office space, and on top of all of that, reports found that productivity jumped as much as 5%. In the same vein, many of those in the medical field, especially mental health specialists, have found that they are able to deliver the same level of care in consultation and discussion visits.
This sentiment was shared in another response to the proposal from CMS- a letter from Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association. In it she praises the 2023 extension acknowledging that it allows CMS to “determine which telehealth services should be permanently added to the telehealth list once the COVID-19 PHE [public health crisis] ultimately expires.” But Johnson then pivots, saying that “without congressional action, any telehealth service added to the permanent telehealth service list will only be available to certain Medicare beneficiaries once the current statutory telehealth flexibilities expire.” Johnson concludes by stating, “For this reason . . . the ATA urges Congress to also recognize the need for telehealth services to continue for a period not dependent on the COVID-19 PHE.”
No matter how CMS and Congress respond to these petitions, there is no doubt that telemedicine is set up to be a permanent new fixture to the healthcare ecosystem. Medical facilities old and new are allocating space specifically to be used for telehealth appointments.
At Carehub®, we agree that telehealth is an important constituent for healthcare treatment in the 21st century. That’s why each of our facilities have dedicated telemedicine rooms that include computers equipped top to bottom with high resolution webcams and fast fiber-optic internet to help physicians deliver the best possible care to their patients. If you would like to hear more about what we do or if you would like to check out our medical office space in Lakeway, TX, feel free to call (512) 543-2273 ext.8, or email firstname.lastname@example.org