August 17, 2020

Telehealth Today and in a Post-COVID-19 World

By Kyle Y. Faget, Esq., Foley & Lardner, LLP, Boston, MA

COVID-19 has been catastrophic in terms of loss of lives and impact on the U.S. economy.  The entry of COVID-19 into the United States has been nothing short of a dawning of a new age for telehealth, however.  Before the highly contagious, easily transmitted COVID-19 virus came to U.S. shores in early to mid-winter, telehealth had been gaining traction in mainstream medicine, but the practice still had a long way to go before being adopted and utilized ubiquitously.  Several barriers to entry existed that counseled away from providers actively pursuing adoption of telehealth.  For example, coverage for telehealth services was limited, and the process for obtaining required licenses for treating patients across state lines was burdensome.  Integrating telehealth into the practice of healthcare required an attitude shift that COVID-19 forced upon providers and patients alike.  Historically, patients objected to the notion that their ailments could be treated via remote means, and physicians remained reluctant to adopt the technology required to practice clinical care virtually.  COVID-19 forced a number of important changes upon telehealth practice, which are addressed methodically below, but many of these changes are temporary in nature.  Whether and to what extent some of the COVID-19-inspired changes remain as the world adjusts to the new normal is an open question, but worthy of consideration.

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