While telehealth has been around for a decade, it wasn’t until the pandemic that it has been allowed to advance to really assist patients and clinical staff. Since the pandemic, telehealth has extended into pediatric care, dentistry and pharmacy. In several successful efforts to respond to the pandemic and treat those that come in, community health centers have substantially “expanded their use of telehealth over a very short period of time” to treat their patients throughout the pandemic.
President Trump signed an Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access. According to the Executive Order, “rural healthcare providers need these types of flexibilities to provide continuous care to patients in their communities.” The purpose of the order is to “increase access to, improve the quality of, and improve the financial economics of rural healthcare, including increasing access to high-quality care through telehealth.”
The Executive Order has caused CMS to propose expanding telehealth reimbursement after COVID-19! CMS’ current telehealth flexibilities for FQHC telehealth cannot stand, past the pandemic, without congressional action. In order to provide its beneficiaries the best coverage, CMS has reached out to the public, especially in rural areas, to survey what they would like to see permanently covered.
In its efforts to increase access to high quality care in rural communities, HHS, through HRSA, awarded more than $35 million to FQHCs and RHCs on August 20, 2020. The funds are to be used for telehealth advancements, workforce training, health research, technical assistance for vulnerable rural hospitals and HIV care and treatment.
The number of telehealth advancements are far from completion. Telehealth bills are starting to add up for the government to consider. These bills include the ones CMS has put forth.