Remote health care recommendations set guidelines for policymakers
Twenty-three of the nation’s leading health care experts today released their much-anticipated final report, identifying challenges and opportunities for telehealth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Taskforce on Telehealth Policy, convened by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Alliance for Connected Care, and the ATA (American Telemedicine Association), spent the summer building consensus on a comprehensive set of findings and recommendations.
Taskforce members — representing a broad spectrum of health plans, physician groups, consumer advocates, and health quality experts from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors — see the report as a blueprint for how policymakers can harness the rapid expansion of telehealth and create lasting health care improvements that prioritize patient safety, quality, and equitable access to care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the significant contribution telehealth has made to patient care delivery,” said Nancy Gin, MD, a task force member and executive vice president and chief quality officer of The Permanente Federation, the consortium of 8 Permanente Medical Groups providing care to more than 12.4 million Kaiser Permanente members.
“This report outlines key areas that need to be addressed in order for all health care organizations to continue on this path of telehealth after the pandemic,” Dr. Gin said. “I’m honored to have sat on this taskforce and to help fulfill our promise of providing quality care to our patients that is safe and effective.”
The Taskforce on Telehealth Policy posted the full report online. Highlights of the report’s key findings and recommendations include:
- Telehealth is the natural evolution of health care into the digital age. It is essentially a setting or modality of care, rather than a type of care. As such, it should be held to the same standards and quality measures as in-person care wherever possible and appropriate.
- Early data suggests that telehealth has substituted for a good deal of in-person care during the pandemic without increasing overall costs. Studies show that it can also relieve travel burdens, risks, and care delays, and improve behavioral care access, while reducing missed appointments, costly transfers to hospitals and emergency departments, and hospital readmissions.
- Policymakers must expand efforts to ensure access to broadband and technology infrastructure as well as education to improve digital literacy, to promote equity and reduce disparities as health care moves into the digital age.
- Policymakers should maintain the following policy changes related to COVID-19:
- Lift geographic restrictions and limitations on originating sites
- Allow telehealth for various types of clinicians and conditions
- Acknowledge that telehealth visits generally can meet requirements for establishing a clinician/patient relationship
- Lift restrictions on telehealth across state lines
- Full enforcement of the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) should resume when the current public health emergency ends.
- The ongoing move from fee-for-service to value-based arrangements in health care should enhance the ability of patients, payers, and providers to leverage telehealth’s potential.
Members of the Taskforce on Telehealth Policy
- Peter Antall, MD, chief medical officer, Amwell
- Regina Benjamin, MD, chief executive officer, BayouClinic/Gulf States Health Policy Center, former Surgeon General of the United States
- Kate Berry, senior vice president of clinical innovation, AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans)
- Krista Drobac, executive director, Alliance for Connected Care
- Yul Ejnes, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine, Brown University; chair-emeritus, American College of Physicians Board of Regents
- Rebekah Gee, MD, chief executive officer, Louisiana State University Health System
- Nancy Gin, MD, executive vice president of quality and chief quality officer, The Permanente Federation, Kaiser Permanente
- Kate Goodrich, MD, senior vice president for trend and analytics, Humana
- Chuck Ingoglia, president and chief executive officer, National Council for Behavioral Health
- Ann Mond Johnson, chief executive officer, American Telemedicine Association
- Megan Mahoney, MD, chief of staff, Stanford Health Care; clinical professor, Division of Primary Care and Population Health, Stanford Medicine
- Chris Meyer, director of virtual care and telehealth, Marshfield Clinic Health System
- Ricardo Munoz, MD, chief, Division of Cardiac Critical Care Medicine, and executive director of telemedicine, Children’s National Health System; co-director, Children’s National Heart Institute; professor of pediatrics, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Peggy O’Kane, president, National Committee for Quality Assurance
- Kerry Palakanis, DNP, APRN, executive director of connected care operations, Intermountain Healthcare
- Michelle Schreiber, MD, federal liaison and director, Quality Measurement and Value-Based Incentives Group, Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (non-voting)
- Dorothy Siemon, JD, senior vice president for policy development, AARP
- Julia Skapik, MD, MPH, medical director of informatics, National Association of Community Health Centers
- Jason Tibbels, MD, chief quality officer, Teladoc Health
- Nicholas Uehlecke, federal liaison, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (non-voting)
- Andrew Watson, MD, vice president of clinical IT transformation, UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center)
- Cynthia Zelis, MD, MBA, chief medical officer, MDLIVE