COVID-19 lead to a big and necessary push in the world of telehealth in the past year, and it doesn’t look like that momentum will be slowing down any time soon.

Telehealth took a leap forward out of necessity to help service more and more patients in a world where everyone was trying to keep their distance from each other, and, for many, it was beneficial.

2021 looks like it will be another very successful year for telehealth services including telemedicine.

Below, we will cover just some of the reasons why telehealth is here to stay.

More Telemedicine consults for Potentially Infectious Diseases

This one should go without saying, but when the whole world is in a pandemic, being aware of potentially infectious diseases and trying to limit the spread by minimizing contact with others is key.

Telehealth aims to merge the safety of distance without compromising on the standard of care and high-quality medical evaluation.

More Telemedicine consults for Chronic Conditions using common Monitoring Technology

A bulk of the medical care needed doesn’t consist of emergency situations, but a consistent and thoughtful review of chronic conditions on a regular basis.

This includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes visits to help patients keep their therapy in check, and critically monitor their levels and numbers to identify the need for changes or adjustments.

In the past, these patients wouldn’t think twice about venturing into a doctor’s office regularly for a quick check-in, but with the onset of COVID-19, many have become wary of healthcare environments for fear of coming into contact with the virus.

This is especially important, since people with certain chronic conditions like these may be at a higher risk of a more severe disease if they do contract the virus.

Without implementing easily accessible telemedicine technology for chronic conditions, people may avoid getting the regular care that they need to keep their treatment on course.

Luckily, patient-use monitoring technology has been growing, and it is not very common for people with high blood pressure or diabetes to monitor their levels regularly and be very aware of how to use and interpret these devices.

By pairing these patient-use devices with a telemedicine virtual visit with a doctor, many chronic disease check-ups can be successfully completed at the same level of care as an in-person visit.

The Regulations are catching up with the needs of Telemedicine Services

Telemedicine and telehealth services rapidly expanded in 2020, but some of the rules and regulations lagged behind, making it difficult to fully integrate.

Many of the laws controlling healthcare have not accounted for telehealth services, or quite predicted just how practitioners could use the platform.

But, in 2021 many of the healthcare laws and payors are in the process of updating regulations to be more inclusive of telehealth, helping everything work as a more cohesive system.

Telehealth can be a key Resource for Mental Health Needs

One of the clear needs that became apparent in 2020, is the need for access to telemental health services, also known as online therapy or telepsychiatry.

Dealing with a pandemic has lead many to experience depression, anxiety, and generalized stress, all while being told to social distance.

This, combined with the potential reluctance of someone experiencing mental health issues to get in-person help, created a huge need for an easier way to get mental health medical care from home.

Telemental health services are well set up to administer quality care virtually, as they normally consist of talk therapy which can be easily replicated through a video chat platform.

Telehealth can help increase Access to Medical Care for many

Access to care has been a growing concern starting way before 2020, but the severity of the divide became even more apparent with the onset of the pandemic.

Small, rural, communities deserve to have quick access to all the same medical advancements and professionals as someone living in a bustling metropolis, and telehealth services can help bridge that gap.

Of, course, there are still roadblocks in terms of patients needing access to computers, phones, and an internet connection, which will likely need to be addressed in the future to allow equal telehealth access to everyone.

New expansions of Medicare Telehealth Services

Currently, about 15% of the US population is enrolled in the Medicare 

program, and relies solely on this service for much or all of their medical needs.

Expansions to Medicare are currently underway to increase the number of telehealth services covered for patients under this program.

This is a huge step forward for the world of telehealth and a benefit to those relying on these government programs for their healthcare needs.

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Updates for Medicare Coding and Documentation of Telehealth Services coming into Effect

When it comes to telehealth services, it isn’t solely about getting these services up and running, but it also involves making sure that the medical professionals pouring their time into virtual care are getting properly compensated, just as they would with an in-person office visit.

Medicare is launching into 2021 by implementing permanent updates to the ways practitioners document and code for their telehealth efforts.

This helps pave the way for smoother telehealth expansions, while giving the physicians and other medical professionals more time with patients and less time dealing with red-tape and paperwork.

Bottom Line

2020 gave the medical system a wake-up call, and was a huge push towards innovating and finding ways for healthcare to persevere even in the face of a global pandemic.

This has lead to years worth of telehealth progress in what seems like just a few short months.

Telehealth is the future of medicine and has proven to be a successful way to provide increased access to health for many people.

2021 will see continued innovation in this space, coupled with rules and regulations allowing for and considerate of virtual health services, making telehealth more easily accessible for patients, and easier to implement for practitioners.

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