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Telehealth’s Virus Boom Prompts Task Force to Guide Its Future

June 18, 2020, 2:33 PM

Telehealth’s popularity during the virus outbreak prompted a team of health-care leaders to band together to brainstorm recommendations to ensure the virtual services remain safe and beneficial for patients.

The Taskforce on Telehealth Policy includes health plans, health-care providers, consumer advocates, and health quality experts from the public and private sector, the group said Thursday.

After languishing for years, telehealth exploded as patients turned to electronic visits with health-care providers to avoid infection during the Covid-19 pandemic. There is widespread agreement that telehealth, which traditionally cost significantly less than in-person visits, is here to stay. Policy changes have been made by the Trump administration and states to allow for greater use of telehealth and to increase compensation rates to match in-person visits.

“Every element of healthcare has been affected by the major increases in telehealth and remote patient care,” the task force said. Remote visits for Medicare patients have increased from about 12,000 a week to more than 1 million per week, it said, citing comments from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.

The task force will hold its first meeting on June 29, with final recommendations expected in early September.

The 20-member task force will be led by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which rates health plans and providers; the Alliance for Connected Care, a nonprofit that promotes remote care; and the American Telemedicine Association, an industry trade group.

Recommendations for Policymakers

The group “will develop consensus recommendations for policymakers on how to maximize the benefits of telehealth services while maintaining high standards for patient safety and program integrity,” it said.

“We need to get this moment in healthcare right by optimizing the quality and value of telehealth for everyone,” National Committee for Quality Assurance President Margaret O’Kane, said in a statement.

“This taskforce can take what we have collectively learned in the past three months and develop thoughtful recommendations that will provide access to remote care for the long term while balancing cost, quality and judicious use of taxpayer dollars.” Alliance for Connected Care Executive Director Krista Drobac said in a statement.

In addition to the three leading organizations, the task force includes officials from telehealth companies Teladoc Health and Amwell, the American College of Physicians, the National Council for Behavioral Health, managed care provider Kaiser Permanente Federation, health insurer Humana, the Marshfield Clinic, health-care system Intermountain Healthcare, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the AARP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Hansard in Washington at shansard@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com

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