Future of Telehealth

Regulatory Crossroads: Shaping the Future of Telehealth

After the COVID-19 Pandemic, several new opportunities and options have opened up in various industries. When it comes to the healthcare industry, Telehealth has gained huge popularity after COVID-19. However, it also increases the concern about safety and privacy in this sector, of which people may not be aware. In this article, we’ve covered everything about Telehealth regulations and the future of Telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s explore!

Telehealth Policies: Overview

Here is the significance of the future of Telehealth with each timeline event:

1. Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023

Effective Date – December 29, 2022

Extended Date – December 31, 2024

Significance: Medicare providers have flexibilities in Telehealth that can set the stage for all their patients’ care.

In Dec 2022, President Biden signed this Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) into law, and its extended telehealth flexibilities until December 31 2024 include;

  • Telehealth doesn’t have any geographical restrictions.
  • Patients can be taken care of from their home.
  • Phone calls, consultations, or audio visits are acceptable in certain circumstances.

2. DEA Extended Telehealth Flexibilities for Controlled Medications

Effective Date: May 11, 2023

Extended Date: December 31, 2024

Significance: Healthcare providers can continue prescribing controlled medications via a telemedicine platform.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) were announced just two days before the public health emergency and extended all COVID-19 telemedicine flexibility for the next six months. Later, the DEA was extended through December 31, 2024.

3. End of Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE)

Ended – May 11, 2023

Significance: There are many healthcare flexibilities put in during the pandemic that now come to an end.

Some telehealth flexibilities became permanent on 11 May 2023 while some are coming to an end such as providing care across state lines.

4. CONNECT Act reintroduced

Re-introduced – 15 June, 2023

Significance: After the Pandemic, many patients prefer Telehealth for smooth checkups and consultations and that increases the future of telehealth access.

A bipartisan group of US senators reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) to increase the future of telehealth access for patients and providers.  If it is signed into law, then the CONNECT Act would:

  • Permanently allow healthcare centres and clinics to provide telehealth services
  • Remove in-person visit requirements for telehealth services
  • Make other pandemic-era flexibilities permanent
  • Remove geographic requirements for telehealth services

5. CMS proposed changes in the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS)

Proposed Date – July 13, 2023

Considering Comments Date – September 11, 2023

Significance: If CMS proposed changes, then it would improve the future of telehealth reimbursement rates as required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

Here are some key changes proposed:

  • Improve Telehealth access through 2023
  • Allow healthcare centres and clinics to bill separately for remote health services.
  • Add health and well-being coaching services to Medicare’s telehealth services on a temporary basis and the Social Determinants of Health Risk Assessments permanently.
  • Increase telehealth payment rates.

6. Return to HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth Practices

Active Date – May 11, 2023

Enforcement Date – August 10, 2023

Significance: Healthcare providers must use HIPAA-compliant telehealth platforms only.

Before the pandemic, US law required telehealth providers to use telecommunication tools with the guidelines set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). However, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) didn’t actively fulfil the requirements, and that is why OCR gave telehealth providers a 90-day grace period after the end of the public health emergency. Its grace period ends on August 10, 2023, and then the Federal Government will start imposing penalties for certain HIPAA violations.

HIPAA Compliance and Telehealth

HIPAA is a healthcare standard that protects patients’ sensitive health information. It’s a standard that every telemedicine service needs to follow; they must be HIPAA-compliant, by law, from August 10  2023. 

HIPAA-based standards mean following certain cyber security standards given in the guidelines. Some of the guidelines include having a business associate agreement (BAA), encrypted messages and secure cloud storage. Also, there are various other essential guidelines that you need to follow while working with patients:

  • Patients’ identities must be verified before the virtual visit
  • Staff must receive HIPAA training
  • Every message sent to patients must be encrypted and secured
  • One cannot share login credentials to any software which has Protected Health Information (PHI)
  • Patient calls should never be taken in a public place

Telehealth Security is more than HIPAA compliance

If you’re a healthcare provider, then the very first thing you should make sure of is following HIPAA compliance to ensure security and privacy. A patient’s health data is sensitive, and most cyber attacks happen on these sensitive databases. Having secure HIPAA compliance will ensure security measurements on the telehealth platforms so that providers and patients can seamlessly communicate and use it. Here are some major security concerns every healthcare provider must consider for their software:

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPN is an effective way to secure your device location, and it creates a security wall that makes it difficult for hackers to track your location. It is commonly used during public network access to prevent such types of attacks because the chances of getting tracked with a public network are higher. Thus it is highly recommended to use your own private Wifi network instead of accessing any public Wifi to prevent these attacks.

Strong Password

When you’re creating a password, these are some best practices you should follow to keep a strong password:

  • Regularly change the password
  • Keep your password long (around 14-16 characters)
  • Never share passwords with anyone
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Use unique passwords for different websites you’re accessing

Navigating payments

One of the significant changes happening in the future of the telehealth sector is the payment process. Previously, states depended on insurers to cover Telehealth but didn’t stipulate payments. However, this was a critical disincentive because, without pay, it becomes difficult for healthcare providers to provide services. At that time, payments also reflected the service cost to avoid overpayment. 

This is where the need for incentives increased during the pandemic, and some private payers and Medicaid programs announced payment parity for Telehealth. There was a substantial growth in some healthcare clinics from 10% telehealth visits to 90% telehealth work during the pandemic. Nowadays, etiquette reimbursement in Telehealth is an essential part of broad adoption.

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Rise of Telehealth: Statistics

Here are some recent statistics about the future of the telehealth sector after Covid-19:

  • The US Market is one of the major markets of the telehealth industry with a market value of $17 billion.
  • Global market size of the Telehealth sector is $87.41 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $286.22 billion in 2030.
  • The usage of telehealth care increased 38 times higher than before COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 91% of people believe that telehealth makes doctor’s appointment, maintaining refills, and follow-up easier than before.

Future of Telehealth

Telehealth has contributed to the biggest shift in the healthcare industry, and this shift is here to stay. The adoption of the future of telehealth services has widely increased and keeps increasing over time because it allows healthcare providers to treat more patients virtually, increases access to care, relieves pressure on the workforce and saves time & money. Telehealth was started because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now it has become a revolutionary technology that will be in demand in the future.

How can the i-medicus telehealth app help?

i-medicus offers one-stop telehealth solutions for healthcare providers, helps them overcome distance or time constraints, and lets providers and patients interact seamlessly for better healthcare. From video/audio consultation, dashboard, and appointment booking to digital payments, everything will be done easily with our platform. Get in touch with our experts to build HIPAA-compliant telehealth platforms.

FAQs

Q.1 What is the scope of telemedicine?

Ans – Telemedicine has a promising future, and it is a digital solution for both patients and healthcare providers to connect seamlessly for better care, virtual consultation, e-prescription, and much more.

Q.2 What new technology is used in telehealth?

Ans – Telehealth utilizes various technologies, including voice, audio/video, AI, ML, cloud, and IoT, to enhance telehealth services and provide better care to patients.

Q.3 Who benefits most from telehealth?

Ans – For people who are living in rural areas where healthcare access is limited, telehealth is a great solution to get access to specialists anytime, anywhere.

Q.4 What’s the key difference between telehealth and telemedicine?

Ans – Telemedicine refers to remote medical services. On the other hand, telehealth includes both medical and non-medical services.

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