Lawmakers are considering several bills this week that would make it easier for more healthcare providers to have their telehealth services paid for by Medicare during public health emergencies like COVID-19 (“New Emergency Telehealth Capacity Bill Has Bipartisan Support”–ThinkAdvisor, 6/22/20). The bills, introduced in both the House and Senate, also contain new provisions that will require the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide Congress with a report on the state of country’s telehealth infrastructure every five years as part of HHS’ ongoing efforts to broaden patient access to telehealth services. But what does this proposed legislation mean for hospitals and health systems?
Given the success of similar coronavirus emergency initiatives earlier this year such as April’s COVID-19 Emergency Telehealth Bill, healthcare providers are likely to see more federal legislative efforts aimed at further expanding patient access to telehealth services for many years to come. So now that Washington has demonstrated its support of telehealth expansion, the question for hospitals and health systems quickly becomes “can our technology scale to support any potential increase in demand for our telehealth services while still meeting the needs of our patients?” And if that answer is “no”, then it’s probably time to reassess your organization’s technological capabilities for the future.