It appears that the recent spending bill approved by Congress makes the provision of telehealth services permanent. The recent spending bill approved by Congress on December 21, 2020 does a lot to make the provision of telehealth services permanent.
The new rule allows physicians to provide their first telehealth service to a patient as long as the patient’s last in-person visit was within the past 6 months. The law gives the Secretary the ability to determine eligibility beyond that six-month period. The Secretary has to establish their rules on a calendar year basis, so we shouldn’t have any worries for calendar year 2021.
Based on how that section of the bill is worded, it is apparent that telehealth services to mental health patients will be able to continue receiving telehealth services, even from their home, and that a telehealth service will actually be paid at the same rate as an in-person visit. For SMART and our partners, this is the most important provision of the bill because that was the major barrier to continue telehealth use post-pandemic.
What’s Beyond the Horizon for Telehealth?
Healthcare IT News surveyed 14 Chief Information Officers regarding ways that innovation could fill existing gaps in virtual care. Here’s what they offered in their responses:
Remote monitoring devices: Today we can measure pulse, temperature and oxygen but innovation in devices that can analyze blood, etc., would “bring telehealth to the next level”.
Complete patient engagement: Allow patients to fully interact with a shared screen to make selections, ask questions, interact with images, draw on the screen…a fully-interactive experience with the provider.
Artificial Intelligence: One CIO envisioned an “AI bot” to triage the patient before determining whether a provider should join the call; not based on preset questions, but more of a conversational exchange.
Peppa Pig?: For pediatric telehealth platforms a child would likely be more comfortable interacting with a beloved TV character than a doctor.
One CIO noted that some patients have difficulty navigating the technology. and suggested improvements to make the user interface more friendly. Another envisioned a natural language translator which allows the provider to speak in English, allowing the patient to hear in their preferred language. Add others to the call: If a patient’s support system is not within their home, allowing the patient to pull-in family or others to join the call and offer what he termed “remote help”.
Virtual consult rooms: Two CIOs suggested to allow multiple providers (such as an internist, cardiologist and nutritionist to participate in a call with a patient to simultaneously discuss a health problem. Each would participate, documenting their own notes, offering the patient a “total healthcare experience”. Voice recognition: Using voice recognition for a provider to be able to automatically capture and transcribe notes into the patient’s record. The provider would only need to edit and sign the note later.
Predictive analytics: One CIO envisioned a full “clinician cockpit” with “analytic insights”, sensory and Internet of Things (IoT) data to “take timeliness, efficiency and positive patient outcomes to a new level”.
Everything!: When asked what feature they would like to see most, One CIO responded with “Why have to choose? A digital journey should afford synchronous, asynchronous, with voice, with video, with physiological monitoring, all in a single too. The elements of the tool that are enlisted will depend upon patient choice and clinical need. Today, these are many (largely) different tools.” Contact us today to keep up to date with these and other substance abuse EHR software news.