Telehealth Helps Remove Barriers to Care, Congress Must Protect This Access
The pandemic changed our daily life seemingly overnight – and how patients receive and providers administer health care was no exception. The pandemic resulted in the rapid growth of telehealth that millions of patients, especially seniors and those living in rural or financially insecure areas, now rely on.
Telehealth’s role in increasing access to care continues to be just as important now as it was during the early days of the pandemic. An American Medical Association survey from 2021 found that among physician respondents, more than 80 percent said their patients have better access to care since using telehealth, a 12 percent increase compared to 2020.
Importantly, virtual access removes barriers to care such as proximity to specialists, travel time, and cost. This has far-reaching benefits, such as allowing those with chronic conditions to spend more time out of a provider’s office than in it. For those without direct access to in-person services, one study of 100 patients with diabetes found that access to telehealth resources saved those patients more than 9,500 miles of driving in just six months. Another study noted that telehealth positively impacted outpatient care and appointment attendance. When using telehealth between March 2021 and March 2022, appointment no-show rates decreased from 14 percent to 6 percent.
Further, a February 2022 poll from the Alliance for Connected Care found that 66 percent of adults believe that telehealth will make patients more likely to seek health care when they need it. Due to these benefits and growing bipartisan support from voters for permanent protections, lawmaker support for telehealth has been overwhelming:
- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Finance: “Throughout the pandemic, telehealth was a key tool to help seniors and other Americans access health services without putting themselves at risk during the early days of the pandemic.” (Senate Committee on Finance, 5/5/22)
- U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC): “Telehealth has been a godsend for millions of Americans receiving health care services during the pandemic, while ensuring the spread of the virus stays at a minimum. Updating our laws to solve today’s challenges through commonsense and practical approaches will ensure more access to health care and a safer aging population.” (Press Release, 2/23/2021)
- U.S. Representative Cindy Axne (D-IA): “Telehealth has proven to help folks cut back on travel times to and from appointments and ensures that Iowans who may lack regular access to transportation can still meet with their doctors. Telehealth visits allow Iowa’s health care providers to meet people where they are, and I am proud to lead this effort to make sure we allow Iowans to continue using vital telehealth services.” (Press Release, 4/26/22)
- U.S Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA): “Innovations like telehealth and wearable technology can transform the way Americans receive health care while saving them money.” (Issues Statement, 2/10/2022 )
- U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD): “We know we have to broaden that kind of access across the country…We also know that telehealth services make a huge difference. During the pandemic, we needed to seize on that opportunity to deliver health care remotely to many, many people in our country, including seniors.” (CBS Baltimore, 5/9/22)
- U.S. Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE): “I talked about telehealth and how important that is to expand that access for everyone, I was working on that for rural purposes before the pandemic, we know that the need is greater than just for rural purposes. We know many people are depending on this.” (Ways and Means Committee Hearing, 4/28/2022)
The momentum for action is clear, especially following passage of H.R. 4040 – the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act – in an overwhelming bipartisan manner. Congress must urgently enact permanent telehealth protections to ensure expanded, equitable access to care.
ABOUT TELEHEALTH ACCESS FOR AMERICA
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.