7. Increased access to telemedicine through novel practice and policy change
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increased adoption of telemedicine practices as clinicians need to conduct patient visits online. The virtual care model and increased consumer adoption came from fundamental shifts in policy at the government and provider levels, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
“COVID-19 was a complete disruptor. It was a disruptor that we needed. We’ve been working really well with our telehealth efforts and really trying to meet the patients wherever he or she is. With COVID, people were fearful of coming in. We also had restrictions of some services based on our concerns of the pandemic and government restrictions on in-person visits,” Dr. Beri Ridgeway, associate chief of staff and institute chair of obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health at the Cleveland Clinic, said during the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit.
Since the start of the pandemic, state and federal regulators have pushed to reduce telehealth adoption barriers so new virtual care tools can speed up access to care while protecting the community and healthcare workers.
“Fortunately, based on the work that we’d already done, we could quickly pivot to a very high proportion of care that was performed via telehealth. We used this disruptor to our advantage,” Ridgeway said. “Policy is so critical and I believe that was one of the barriers of us really taking telehealth to the next level prior to COVID. Fortunately in early March, both at the federal and state levels, the government made significant changes in policy that really allowed us to catapult our efforts in telehealth. This included who could see patients — meaning what provider, what platform — meaning we could use the telephone or simple video chat functions within our phone where previously we weren’t allowed, and also coverage. Insurance coverage both at the government level and the private level was now covering these types of visits, which is how it should have been all along.”