ICYMI: Virtual Care A “Lifeline” That Must Be Safeguarded

Mar 6, 2024

Op-ed in The Hill Highlights the Need for Permanent Telehealth Protections Without Onerous Restrictions

In case you missed it, in a recent op-ed published in The Hill, Dori Steinberg, board member of the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy, and Action and vice president of research for Equip, highlights the benefits of virtual care access for the millions of Americans who battle with an eating disorder and the need for permanent telehealth protections.  If Congress fails to enact permanent telehealth protections by the ends of this year, access to telehealth for millions of patients will expire. 

As Steinberg writes, “It is evident that patients desperately need tools and access to treatment that works in order to improve outcomes and save lives. This means urgent action in the form of permanent protection for patient access to telehealth without onerous restrictions.”

She continues, “For patients struggling with eating disorders, telehealth has increased access to care by eliminating traditional barriers to treatment, such as travel time and distance to a provider. During COVID, telemedicine provided a lifeline to those seeking mental health treatment … Virtual mental health treatment has been proven to contribute to positive outcomes across mental health conditions, such as treatment engagement, retention, satisfaction and long-term health, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).”

Steinberg also notes the benefits to providers, saying that  “Almost three in four physicians have implemented telehealth programs — a more than 25 percent increase since 2018.”

The piece concludes with a call for urgent congressional action: “Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize the need for action. They have been holding hearings, discussing the topic, and introducing relevant legislation. Recently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers stressed the urgency for action and the need to work with HHS to enact permanent protections. Telehealth has become a needed lifeline for countless people nationwide. It’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and do what’s right: make virtual mental health the norm.”

Read the full op-ed in The Hill HERE and learn more about how Congress can act to permanently protect telehealth access HERE.

Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services. Learn more and take action today at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.