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State agencies consider which changes to telemedicine should be permanent

Many restrictions were lifted due to pandemic
telehealth video conference
Posted at 12:44 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 14:52:24-04

DENVER – Many restrictions placed on telehealth have been eliminated due to the pandemic and social distancing measures.

The Colorado Health Institute recently released a report on changes to telehealth and the possibility of keeping some of those changes after the pandemic ends.

“One change includes where telemedicine can be offered. Physicians can offer services from their home, if they’re self-isolating. And then there’s also some safety net clinics that can offer telemedicine when they couldn’t before,” said Colorado Health Institute Director of Research and Evaluation Jeff Bontrager.

Bontrager told Denver7, another change includes insurance companies reimbursing a variety of medical providers for telemedicine visits.

“Speech therapy, physical therapy or home health can now be reimbursed for telemedicine visits,” said Bontrager.

Denver Health Internal Medicine Doctor Jeremy Long told Denver7 Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance companies deciding to reimburse more providers for telehealth has increased access to healthcare.

“It’s really kind of opened a great door for us because our partners in the state and even nationally are thinking about federal healthcare programs and now we have a great opportunity to say, 'There’s value in this,'” said Bontrager.

But Long said there is a disparity in who can be treated remotely.

Some low-income and elderly patients lack access to strong internet connections.

“As much as we need to be devoted to different high-quality care, we can never stop reiterating the health disparities that are so pervasive,” said Long.

Long said while state agencies decide what’s next for telehealth, state leaders should consider who cannot access the form of care.

Healthcare researchers are still working to determine the cost of telemedicine and whether telehealth increases utilization or spending.