More assurance that telehealth flexibilities will continue past the current COVID-19 public health emergency came in early September, at a meeting of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. MedPAC will advise Congress on how to proceed on permanent policies.
Medicare beneficiaries began using telehealth in astounding numbers once the pandemic began. In this month's Tech Time, we report a telehealth survey from the University of Michigan that found only 4% of respondents had ever had a telehealth visit in May 2019. By June 2020, 30% of respondents had used telehealth.

MedPAC Commissioners’ Insight

At the MedPAC Commissioners’ meeting, commissioners generally agreed that some aspects of telehealth will continue and discussed which aspects to keep, according to an article in Inside Health Policy. Some commissioners reportedly were more open to telehealth flexibilities for Medicare beneficiaries in alternative payment models than in fee-for-service.
"Telehealth is a core digital strategy for healthcare that will be an expectation from our beneficiaries going forward,” said Commissioner Susan Thompson, interim CEO of UnityPoint Health, according to a story in Healthcare Dive. “So how does MedPAC respond to this watershed moment? I strongly recommend we embrace it."

Cost and Equity Concerns

Increased Medicare costs, possible fraud, excessive use, and use of low-value services were raised as concerns, according to "MedPAC commissioners hint at telehealth policies that may stick post-COVID-19." So was the issue of equity, as Medicare beneficiaries who do not have smartphones with data plans or high-speed internet have less access.
Some commissioners seemed in favor of keeping coverage for audio-only telehealth services and of researching how policies could affect costs and digital equity, said Healthcare Dive. Some suggested targeting telehealth coverage to high-risk populations with chronic conditions.
One area of consensus was to end the current exception that allows providers to use video platforms that are not compliant with HIPAA, the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

LeadingAge and CAST Telehealth Resources

Please review the LeadingAge Technology and Telehealth policies and priorities. If you are choosing telehealth technologies, be sure to check out the LeadingAge CAST Telehealth and RPM Selection Tool, which includes many providers’ case studies and can help you find the best solutions for your organization.

Telehealth at the Collaborative Care & Health IT Innovations Summit

The Summit featured several sessions that discussed telehealth, including adoption in response to COVID-19 and case studies from the trenches. Sessions also covered increased interest in, and coverage of, telehealth by payers and acute care partners.
Missed the Summit? Don’t worry, all the content will be available on-demand on the Virtual Summit’s Platform through Feb. 2021 to all registered attendees, as well as anyone interested in registering to gain access.