The American Medical Association this week resolved to continue advocating for telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among underserved communities. AMA
After physicians and medical students virtually gathered for five days, delegates adopted a policy directing the AMA to continue working with legislators and regulators to support telehealth advancements.
“Telehealth and remote care services have proven critical to the management of COVID-19, while also ensuring uninterrupted care for 100 million Americans with chronic conditions. How telehealth will be used after the pandemic is in the balance, and no one wants to see new access to telehealth suddenly halted,” said AMA President Dr. Susan R. Bailey in a statement earlier this week.
WHY IT MATTERS
The AMA resolved that it would push for the federal government, state agencies and the health insurance industry to adopt clear and uniform policies relating to telehealth services.
These regulations, said the organization, must provide equitable coverage for telehealth regardless of where patients are located and provide for accessible devices and technologies with appropriate security.
Though not explicitly stated, this aspect of the resolution seems to support overturning geographic and originating site restrictions on telehealth – a measure that has received bipartisan backing by federal elected officials.
But the inclusion of the insurance industry in the resolution is also significant, given that reimbursement uncertainty continues to haunt conversations about the future of virtual care.
The AMA also acknowledged telehealth’s potential role in deepening the digital divide, noting that the organization would push for “equitable access to telehealth services, especially for at-risk and under-resourced patient populations and communities, including but not limited to supporting increased funding and planning for telehealth infrastructure such as broadband and internet-connected devices for both physician practices and patients.”
THE LARGER TREND
The resolution comes on the heels of the release of a clinician survey by the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition Telehealth Workgroup, of which the AMA is a part.
Although providers in that survey were generally in favor of telehealth, they also acknowledged existing barriers, including access to technology and workflow limitations.
The survey also found that only 11% of clinicians were making use of remote patient technologies – an area of innovation that advocates have stressed the importance of in recent months.
ON THE RECORD
“The time is now for government officials, physicians, patients, and other stakeholders to work together on a solid plan to support telehealth services going forward,” said Bailey.