COVID-19: Impact on Telehealth

July 2020 Vol 11, No 7

Categories:

COVID-19

Telehealth has emerged as an essential component of healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis. In a wide-ranging discussion, a panel of experts discussed the current benefits and ongoing challenges of this technology, as well as its potential impact on patients and practices in the years to come.

“It’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back,” said the  moderator of the discussion, Rick Lee, Executive Chairman, Healthy Platforms and CancerLife, as he referred to the speed with which patients and providers have embraced telemedicine. He provided a summary of the changes that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic, including decisions by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that have allowed expanded use of telehealth services. These changes have led to a significant increase in the number of telehealth visits that have occurred, contributing to the widespread acceptance of this modality.

Although telemedicine is now widely accepted, there are certain complexities related to administration and practice that must be appropriately managed for continued success.

“Having regulatory experience is imperative, in particular during this time when things are very fast-moving and fast-paced and we’re seeing changes in CMS rules and regulations almost biweekly,” said Chevon Rariy, MD, Director, Telehealth, Cancer Treatment Centers of America. In particular, “medical records maintenance is key” when deploying a telehealth program that is embedded within a larger healthcare system, he noted.

Brian Leyland-Jones, MD, Chief Medical Officer, National Foundation for Cancer Research, pointed out that in the delivery of specialized healthcare in a rural environment, where patients were required to travel up to 500 miles to a clinic, systems were already in place and functioning well. “We have all adjusted so rapidly,” he said.

During the discussion, the experts also considered the ways in which telehealth services can be used to address patient needs beyond the immediate impact of the coronavirus. For example, the use of telehealth services for patients with illnesses other than cancer is a potential area of expansion. It is already being used in some programs to mitigate loneliness among patients whose illness or geography results in social distancing that is not solely pandemic-related. “Loneliness is disease agnostic,” Karen Keown, RN, Co-Founder, Vida Healthcare, said, referring to these patients.

The panelists also explored how telemedicine could potentially affect clinical trials and other multidisciplinary applications. “There is a concern that they cannot get enough patients into clinical trials and it’s hurting research. And then there’s the retention aspect.” Rethinking protocols could have a positive impact on areas of research going forward, said Bob Gold, Chief Behavioral Technologist and CEO, GoMo Health.

Although proposed expansions in telemedicine show promise, none are without drawbacks. One crucial factor is the extent to which payers would be open to covering these services.

Webcast host Burt Zweigenhaft, PhD, D.Litt, Founder, Association for Value-Based Cancer Care, acknowledged that it may be more complex in a post–COVID-19 environment. “I’m hoping that the combination of government, private enterprise, and providers will be the solution,” he said.

Related Articles
Revenue Cycle Management Update
Web Exclusives
When oncology practices, ranging from small community clinics to larger hospital-based programs, were required to adapt their systems virtually overnight in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, almost no one anticipated that these would be long-term changes. However, as September approaches with no end in sight, it has become clear that oncologists will need to adapt revenue cycle management to long-term pandemic-related changes.
Update from Community Cancer Providers
Web Exclusives
As many full-service hospitals and health systems remain overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, community cancer providers have been able to offer certain services to patients that may not be available at other institutions. How have these providers adapted to meet patients’ changing needs, and how are they keeping their doors open under unprecedented pressure?
Managed Care Update
Web Exclusives
One of the most significant questions for payers in the COVID-19 health ecosystem is, “Will reimbursement parity for telehealth services continue?” Leading representatives of major managed care organizations debate the prospects.
Last modified: July 9, 2020

Subscribe to the Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®

To sign up for our print publication or e-newsletter, please enter your contact information below.

  • First Name *
    Last Name *
     
     
    Profession or Role
    Primary Specialty or Disease State
    Country
  • Please enter your mailing address.

    Address
     
    Address Line 2
    City
     
    State
    Zip Code