In the latest step to encourage “social distancing”, an isolation technique meant to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced expanded telehealth benefits for Medicare participants. Before the announcement, medicare participants were only allowed to access remote healthcare services for routine checkups.
This means the most vulnerable populations won’t have to travel to a physical location if they’re experiencing symptoms.
Instead, a remote healthcare professional will be able to diagnose them over a smart device, such as a phone, tablet, or computer.
One concern remains that aging populations are often slow adopters of technology, so the demographic may not have immediate access to the right devices.
According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma:
These changes allow seniors to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit risk of exposure and spread of this virus. Clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries.
There are currently over 4,000 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the United States.
What does it mean?
Today’s benefit expansion potentially foreshadows a surge of telehealth adoption in the near future. While the technology has existed for some time, the major private health plans still treat it as a policy-dependent benefit. Given the impact it can have on slowing an outbreak, it’s only a matter of time before it will become an expected service of clinics and hospitals through platforms like Health Cloud and Field Service Lightning.