Extend Telemedicine Again
Once again, action is needed to protect Missourians’ access to telemedicine. A little more than two months ago, I wrote about the good news when Governor Parson issued an executive order extending the regulatory waivers on various telemedicine restrictions that have been in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those waivers are set to expire at the end of the year, which is now rapidly approaching.
As I’ve written in the past, telemedicine has been an important part of Missouri’s response to COVID-19, and unfortunately, our state is still dealing with the coronavirus. Prior to the pandemic, state rules and regulations made accessing health care providers remotely more difficult than it needed to be. Telemedicine has become an increasingly popular option among providers and patients alike in the 21 months since these restrictions were lifted.
The growth of telemedicine over the past two years has been staggering. Recently, the chief medical information officer for BJC Medical Group testified in Jefferson City that more than 190,000 patients used its telemedicine services in 2020, up from only 4,000 in 2019. That’s a 4,750% increase in one year! Given telemedicine’s rapid growth, our elected officials need to ensure that access to these services can continue.
Of course, the best way to protect access to telemedicine would be for Missouri’s legislature to remove the currently waived regulations permanently. And as we head into the 2022 legislative session, I’m hopeful this will finally be the year our elected officials do just that. But until then, an executive order is the only way to preserve access to telemedicine.