Posted: August 24, 2020
https://letstalkinteractive.co...Patients in rural areas often find it difficult to obtain quality healthcare. In addition to limited transportation options, rural areas tend to have less healthcare workers and facilities, making obtaining healthcare impossible for several rural Americans. This poses a major problem as individuals living in rural areas are more likely to die from the five leading causes, many of which are preventable.
Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at increasing accessibility of telehealth services to individuals living in rural communities. The executive order, which was signed into law on August 3rd, 2020, expands telehealth services and reforms payment models for individuals living in rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the public health emergency (PHE), it’s more crucial than ever that patients have access to care. Unfortunately, for those living in rural areas, this hasn’t been an option. Individuals that become sick often have to travel long distances to reach their closest healthcare facility. Because of the short supply of hospitals and healthcare facilities in rural areas, facilities are often packed, increasing the chance of COVID-19 transmission.
At the start of the pandemic, as hospitals and medical facilities prepared for an influx of patients, many providers stopped offering in-person clinical care and elective medical procedures. In order to increase access to healthcare, the President implemented increased flexibility regarding telemedicine services and the ways in which patients can connect with providers throughout the pandemic. This led to an increase in telemedicine services around the country.
The new executive order aims to expand these flexibilities to rural healthcare providers, ensuring rural Americans have access to quality care during these uncertain times.
Under the executive order, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must propose a CMS rule to extend Medicare’s increased coverage for telehealth services beyond the end of the pandemic. The HHS must also propose a payment model that gives rural providers flexibility from CMS rules, establishes predictable payments, and encourages high-quality, value-based healthcare for patients living in rural areas.
The executive order calls on the HHS to launch a rural health action plan focused on building sustainable models for rural communities that prevents disease and mortality. The rural health plan must leverage technology and innovation and increase patient access to care. Under the executive order, the HHS must also reach a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Commission and the Department of Agriculture to promote rural access to telehealth via Bluetooth connection.
Telehealth provides a convenient and affordable way for patients to connect with providers. Using secure video conferencing software, providers can evaluate, diagnose, and treat a wide range of conditions. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, telehealth makes it possible for providers to reach more patients in less time than possible with in-person visits. This includes patients located in rural and remote areas.