COVID-19 may be changing America’s health care industry forever. As hospitals and providers search for ways to safely treat patients in our new landscape, telemedicine is poised to assume a larger role.
For the past few months, Americans have been asked to stay at home, even in situations where they’d normally go to a doctor. Telemedicine was proposed as a solution to this problem—patients could access the benefits of an in-person medical visit without potentially exposing themselves to the virus. So far, consumers are responding. Just last week, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts reported the demand for telemedicine has skyrocketed, with a 190-fold increase in daily claims and most patients indicating a willingness to use the service again.
Now that consumers and coverage providers recognize the value of telemedicine, the government needs to get out of the way in Missouri. Prior to COVID-19, Missourians faced various barriers to receiving telemedicine services. First, it was limited to doctors already licensed in the state. And second, the doctor was required to physically see the patient in person before they could treat them using telemedicine.
In response to COVID-19, Governor Parson quickly waived those telemedicine requirements. By removing these requirements, Missourians were ensured greater access to care. This move also implicitly acknowledges the negative effects of current law. This past legislative session, Missouri’s policymakers took the strong step of granting license reciprocity to doctors from other states, but hurdles still remain for telemedicine professionals who wish to provide care in our state. Without further action, the currently waived regulations will return once the governor’s emergency declaration expires.
States across the country and health coverage providers alike are warming to telemedicine. Even though our state’s businesses are beginning to reopen, a return to normalcy may not be achieved by many for quite some time. It’s important that those who need to limit their potential exposure to the virus can maintain access to health care services. One of the best ways to do that is to embrace telemedicine and remove the current barriers permanently.