Let me first be clear, I am not referring to our beloved healthcare workers who we all are indebted to and admire more than ever. However, before COVID-19 consumed the world, our healthcare systems were already struggling. In America, medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy, and many people forego treatment altogether because they’re unable to afford it or lack access to care. Furthering lack of access, rural hospitals have been closing across the country at an alarming rate. We’ve seen regulations change to help in the fight of COVID-19, but as states begin to reopen, we cannot allow ourselves to slip back into the healthcare system we had prior to 2020.
COVID-19 has Brought Changes to Healthcare
Prior to COVID-19 the regulatory environment made it difficult for providers to adopt a robust telehealth strategy. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health noted that the pandemic highlighted longstanding health inequities in the United States. In Europe, the coronavirus caught an inefficient public health system off guard and countries worldwide are worried about their systems collapsing. As COVID-19 has spread, state governments and hospitals had to fight for PPE to protect frontline staff. This shortage of PPE and shift in regulations has led to providers scrambling to implement telehealth. While elective surgeries were postponed to prevent risk of infection, hospital administrators watched procedures and visits that typically account for much of their revenue all but disappear. Whether private or public, urban or rural, many hospitals have paid a heavy price during and even post this pandemic—leaving many to likely close.
While this pandemic has put a spotlight on challenges in our healthcare systems, it has also allowed for some positive shifts. Organizations like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Department modified their policies to increase access and reimbursement. The goal, to offer providers more flexibility so they can see more patients virtually was simple, and easing these restrictions protected both staff and patients from exposure to the virus. As hospitals eliminated non-essential services and states issued stay-at-home orders, the door to telemedicine opened and became more accessible for many who needed treatment from their homes. While COVID-19 has highlighted areas that still need improvement in our healthcare systems, it also lightened some telehealth restrictions allowing many more access to care.
Healthcare Impacts Everyone
It doesn’t really matter if you are a provider or a patient, someone who needs health care services or not, eventually we all will. And when your time comes to need that professional care, be it 10 years or 20, ask yourself, do I really want to be a patient in the current system? Do I want my children to stumble through this maze to receive the health care they need? And what about all the people that can’t afford the cost of care and have no healthcare coverage at all. We need positive change, and part of that change is the technology that is telemedicine.
GlobalMed has been advocating for transformation in our healthcare system for nearly 20 years. People have needed virtual care access since day one, but regulations have made accessibility difficult if not impossible. It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for healthcare regulations to be realistic, allowing our population to access care virtually. But now that we’re here, let’s not go back, we must stay the course.