An expansion of telehealth flexibilities has been transformative for the long-term care profession and at least one expert is hoping that the federal government welcomes the changes rather than bog down telehealth programs with too many regulations.
“We have to really embrace the technology. There’s going to be some regulation, granted, but we should not suffocate the technology. Embrace it,” said Gerard Moawad, MD, CEO of M-Medical Group.
“I don’t see the genie going back to the bottle, especially since the genie is bringing a lot of good stuff for everybody,” he added.
His comments came Tuesday during a virtual session for LeadingAge’s 2022 Collaborative Care Tech Summit. Moawad, along with other home health and therapy experts, discussed the impact telehealth has had on the industry and what can potentially hold it back post-pandemic.
Telehealth flexibilities, first announced in March 2020, have been critical to reducing obstacles to care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The waivers allow providers to be paid for a wider range of telehealth services for beneficiaries, and permit nursing home beneficiaries to receive telehealth services.
Congress has placed a five-month extension for those telehealth flexibilities once the public health crisis ends, but there is a fear among some that waivers would be gone for good soon after.
Moawad said several studies have shown that additional telehealth capabilities have helped decrease costs for providers, while also reducing readmissions for residents.
He added that telehealth has been a “huge add-on” for those providing care in the post-acute care world since they now have 24/7 access to residents and providers in need.
“Because of telehealth you’re able to basically touch multiple patients by having that group of physicians or nurse practitioners to see the patient in a timely fashion,” Moawad said.
“We were able to touch much more patients [and] much more remote patients, in my opinion, and that really is a big plus for us in the industry in terms of staffing,” he added.
However, he warned that this much change makes federal regulators “uneasy” and they may overcompensate for that through more mandates.
“We have to embrace technology when it helps us. We have to embrace change when it makes a huge difference in the outcome. The biggest problem [with expanded telehealth flexibilities] will be if [the federal government] says, ‘You can see the patient but the reimbursement is going to go back to what it was before.’ That could basically kill the industry completely,” Moawad said. “That could really impact patient care.”