Telehealth Supports Improved Health Outcomes, Congress Must Protect These Improvements Now.
High-quality care can be delivered through telehealth and help improve health outcomes. As a result, Congress must act to protect this vital virtual service.
Expedited by the pandemic, millions of patients have become reliant on the accessible, quality, health care that telehealth provides. For example, telehealth allows patients and providers to better monitor and treat conditions — keeping more patients healthy and out of the emergency department and hospital. About one in seven individuals who had a telehealth visit would have otherwise sought care in an emergency room or urgent care if telehealth was not available. In some cases, telehealth can allow low-risk patients to attend basic checkups from their own homes, cutting down on barriers such as travel costs, and allowing for more patients to attend the follow-up appointments they need to stay healthy.
Telehealth use for mental health has also proven incredibly impactful in improving care outcomes. According to a recent study, telehealth mental health services are proven to generate positive outcomes, including treatment engagement, care retention, and patient satisfaction, leading to improved long-term health outcomes. With 87 percent of mental health related appointments occurring online, telehealth has become a vital piece of the mental health care infrastructure. Mental health care reform is currently a frequently cited issue in Congress that has a pressing need for change, now is the time to act by safeguarding this integral resource through extending telehealth flexibility and enacting permanent reforms.
Patients and providers alike recognize the benefits of telehealth. In a recent article published by Dr. Danielle Ofri in The Atlantic, the New York physician speaks about how she has watched the incorporation of telehealth positively impact the care that her patients receive, saying “I can tell you that taking care of my patients has become far easier. Despite the public-health and economic challenges of the ongoing pandemic, my patients are having more success managing their complex chronic illnesses.”
From seniors, to newborns, to patients with diabetes (about 1 in 10 Americans), studies continue to show that telehealth supports better health outcomes. Lawmakers agree. The passage of the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2022 (H.R. 4040) signaled and solidified telehealth’s widespread bipartisan support. Legislators reinforced the need for telehealth protections saying:
- U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman, 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, 5/5/2022)
- Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Chairwoman, U.S. House Republican Conference: “Families in Upstate New York and the North Country, especially our seniors, rely on telehealth services to keep in touch with their healthcare providers…I am proud to advance bipartisan legislation to extend critical services that our seniors and rural communities rely on, so they can continue to receive healthcare regardless of distance or medical conditions that make in-person visits challenging.” (Press Release, 7/27/2022)
- Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA-1): “Telehealth has played a critical role for patients to access the care they desperately need. On the Energy and Commerce Committee, we’ve been discussing the importance of telehealth flexibilities for years. It’s bringing doctors right into families’ living rooms and it’s an example of how innovation can improve and save people’s lives…While we made great strides and making telehealth more broadly available, we know that Congress can do more. Increasing access to telehealth means increasing access to quality care for all patients.” (House Session, 7/27/2022)
- U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT-AL): “This pandemic has proven that telehealth not only works, but that it’s essential. We saw telehealth services expand to deliver safe, high-quality, and cost-effective care during a time of crisis. At the end of the day, telehealth helps our more vulnerable populations access critical health care, no matter where they live or how mobile they might be. These benefits shouldn’t have an expiration date. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure people can maintain access to these essential virtual care services.” (Press Release, 9/22/21)
In order to maintain the telehealth protections that currently exist under the Public Health Emergency, and safeguard these improved health outcomes, telehealth flexibility must be protected. The House has acted, now it is time for the Senate to ensure permanent telehealth access.
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.