The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our world, from our personal lives, to the jobs of millions – even health care. The pandemic did not change our need to go to the doctor, especially for people with chronic conditions like psoriatic disease. Telehealth services have been one way to ensure continuity of care, allowing patients to access health care right from their homes.
As lawmakers consider policies to maintain expanded access to telehealth post-pandemic, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) will continue to ensure the patient voice is front and center.
Expanded Telehealth During COVID-19
While telehealth services have been available in a limited way to some for the past few years, access is often restricted by requirements patients have to follow. Take Medicare for example. For a telehealth appointment, a Medicare beneficiary would have to travel to an approved medical facility (known as an originating site) and use a specific teleconferencing system to access their provider. There were also strict guidelines limiting what types of health care providers could be accessed using telehealth services.
During this COVID-19 public health emergency, federal and state agencies have provided temporary flexibilities for telehealth to ensure all patients have access to health care, such as allowing patients to hold their appointments from home on a personal laptop or cell phone. Many of these flexibilities will expire when the public health emergency period ends.
Health care providers have had to adapt quickly to be able to offer telehealth services. Many did not previously offer those types of appointments, so this included new investments in technology and training for themselves and their staff, in order to meet patient needs during the pandemic. While investments have been made to make telehealth more accessible to patients, there have been complications for providers with reimbursement for these services. Reimbursement for telehealth varies between health insurance carriers and often depends on what type of insurance plan a patient is enrolled in.