Why We Shouldn’t Be Turning Back the Clock on Telemedicine
Daylight saving time recently came to an end in the U.S. We dutifully turned back our clocks as we do every year at this time. Ironically, it also seems like we are turning back the clock on telemedicine after watching it explode during the COVID pandemic. How unfortunate.
As statewide emergency declarations have been allowed to expire, so have some of the temporary measures put in place to promote telemedicine as an alternative to in-person medical appointments. It is as though the healthcare industry and those that regulate it learned nothing about telemedicine from the pandemic.
Temporary Pandemic Measures
The COVID pandemic was unlike anything this country had witnessed since the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1918. It forced the healthcare industry to rethink how it delivered services at a time when technology is so important to our lives.
To their credit, federal regulators relaxed telemedicine restrictions for Medicare and Medicaid patients. They allowed healthcare providers to offer more telemedicine services without losing federal reimbursement. That was a good thing. But will it be allowed to continue as we turn the page in 2023?
Likewise, many states relaxed restrictions on practicing telemedicine across state lines during the pandemic. But with state emergency declarations expiring, restrictions are returning.
Traveling to Boston for Treatment
CBS news recently reported on a Denver patient planning to travel to Boston to meet with her oncologist. She suffers from a rare form of bone cancer requiring regular visits involving bone scans. The patient was fortunate enough to be able to consult with her doctor via telemedicine during the pandemic. But no more. She now needs to fly to Boston to make her appointments.
To this particular patient, and so many others like her, not being allowed to utilize telemedicine doesn’t make any sense. Telemedicine got the job done for the entire time the pandemic prevented her from traveling. The fact that the pandemic is now behind us doesn’t make telemedicine any less effective.
Vast Improvements in Recent Years
A case could be made to discourage telemedicine a decade ago, albeit a weak one. Back then, telemedicine was mostly limited to telephone calls and pharmacy medical kiosks where you could sit down to get your blood pressure and heart rate measured. Things have changed a lot since then.
At CSI Healthcare, a San Antonio telemedicine solutions company, skilled technicians are building the latest diagnostic health screening tools utilizing technologically advanced software and hardware. All their health screening solutions include a full range of diagnostic tools that give healthcare providers real-time data just as if patients were sitting in their offices.
Imagine a telemedicine kiosk complete with infrared thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, ECG/EKG, sonogram, glucometer, and pulse oximeter. Imagine all these diagnostic tools sending data in real-time to a healthcare provider in a remote location. The doctor has all the information they need to make a diagnosis in concert with a video chat consultation.
Turning Back Doesn’t Make Sense
Technology has pushed telemedicine to new heights. At least to some extent, the pandemic is partially responsible for where telemedicine is right now. We have seen how well it can work in primary care, mental health, and all sorts of scenarios where consultations make up the bulk of the interaction between doctor and patient.
Turning back now just does not make sense. It seems like forcing telemedicine back into the shadows is being done on purpose for reasons unknown. Perhaps more reasoned minds will ultimately prevail. Otherwise, we will be throwing away a resource that proved its value without question.