You’re a patient in need of seeing a health care provider. Prior to the pandemic, you would trek to your doctor’s office or clinic, peruse back issues of a magazine in the waiting room and then see your doctor.
But today you’re doing a telehealth visit. So instead of the trip to the clinic or doctor’s office, you’ve fired up your Zoom app.
Telehealth may change the traditional arrangement for health care visits, even after the COVID-19 pandemic finally ends.
The pandemic has changed a lot in our lives and visits to your doctor may be among them. Mark Ustin, a regulatory attorney with the firm Farrell Fritz, said the efforts to strengthen telehealth services in the new state budget will expand access.
“During COVID we saw a number of the rules normally applicable to telehealth waived and that seems to have worked very well. So what the Legislature has done is, one, make those laws permanent, make those changes permanent, and also expand telehealth — remove current restrictions on where you can broadcast from and where you can receive,” he said in an interview. “That just improves access across the board.”
In some instances, patients will be accessing telemedicine for routine visits or consultations with health care providers.
“In cases where it’s just a routine consultation, particularly with a practioner you already have a relationship with, and in the old days you’d go in, wait in the office, see the person, you know what they’re going to prescribe for you, but you had to go through the routine because our regulations required it,” Ustin said. “But now it’s a matter of booking a time to talk to them online, they do whatever they need to do and issue whatever prescription they need to issue to you.”
And this could also expand how mental health care is provider for and bolstered as the pandemic continues to drag on.
“There is a general acknowledgment that we don’t even know the extent of the mental health impacts yet. But I think everyone who works in this space accepts it will be significant,” Ustin said. “So the more infrastructure we can create now to address that tidal wave of need, the better. Hopefully if we do our jobs right, we will create an infrastructure where people who need mental health services can access the system in a variety of ways.”
And it’s important to note here too that in many instances telehealth will be voluntary for many patients who still want that physical connection with a health care provider. But it’s also worth noting the cost savings across the board here could be significant.