Finding a Path Forward for Digital Health After the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenge to the nation’s healthcare infrastructure like few in our history. To address these challenges, Congress, federal agencies, and states are taking numerous steps to enable wider use of connected health tools to serve patients during the public health crisis. Following a general waiver from reimbursement restrictions for Medicare telehealth services that will at the end of the public health emergency (PHE), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advanced a number of additional allowances in areas such as payment/reimbursement, privacy, and others. The allowances helped enable the use of digital health and telehealth. In fact, our recent poll shows that of the respondents who used telehealth during the pandemic, 90 percent said the visit helped answer their questions, manage their conditions, or address their concerns. The same poll found that 80 percent of likely voters think Americans should be able to access telehealth and digital health services.
Patients’ increasing reliance on digital health and telehealth services—accelerated by the pandemic—caused policymakers to pivot quickly to better understand how to make coverage of these modalities permanent. To that end, Congress is now thinking about the end of the PHE and asking some fundamental questions: does the panoply of laws and regulations in place for healthcare today still further the public good as intended at the time of enactment? And do these requirements map to today’s patients’ expectations? And what is Congress’ role at this critical point in time?
This is a Capitol Hill briefing about the role of digital health tools in addressing COVID-19; experiences from key stakeholders in the value chain to learn from; and ways for Congress to responsibly advance connected health’s reach in healthcare to address the continued impacts of COVID-19 as well as advance the entire healthcare system.