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Easing Telehealth Regulations During the COVID-19 Crisis

Americans who contract COVID-19 or exhibit symptoms shouldn’t just walk into their primary care doctors’ offices and risk spreading the disease. Americans who are sick and think they might have contracted the virus are to contact their doctors about what to do next.

Telehealth and telemedicine can be important components for health consultations, diagnoses, and treatments, and the pandemic provides an opportunity to expand these aspects of health care.

Telehealth is medical consultations over the telephone or web between medical professionals and patients. Telemedicine is diagnosis and treatment through electronic channels. Senator Marsha Blackburn is a proponent of easing regulations on telehealth, which is especially needed during this crisis. She wrote in the Daily Signal (emphasis added):

The first time that members of the U.S. Senate met with Trump administration officials to discuss coronavirus response, I asked officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to push for temporary relief of regulations preventing Medicare patients from taking advantage of telehealth services.

President Donald Trump last week gave the green light for CMS to lift those regulations. Now it’s time for state Medicaid officials and private insurers to get on board.

All Americans, not just the medically complex or vulnerable patients, should have access to these services.

Sen. Blackburn introduced the SOFTWARE Act in 2013 (now codified), health information technology legislation that allows the private sector to work with the government through health and fitness apps and virtual appointment software. But she hasn’t stopped there (emphasis added):

Last year, as part of my rural health agenda, I introduced the Telehealth Across State Lines Act to guide creation of uniform, national best practices for the provision of telemedicine across state lines, set up a grant program to expand existing telehealth programs, and incentivize permanent adoption of telehealth by Medicare and Medicaid.

These policies, though focused on rural America, can be adapted to encourage the use of telemedicine in all communities, and we must implement them as part of our efforts to combat COVID-19.

Who knew only a month ago that our country would be hit with something like COVID-19, a highly contagious disease in which some experience only mild symptoms and some die?

Since anyone with an infectious disease during this crisis is advised to call the doctor before going to a clinic or a hospital, it makes sense to expand the use of telehealth and telemedicine. Doctors can evaluate patients and diagnose infectious illnesses without putting others at risk or adding to the burden of medical professionals treating patients in critical condition.

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