New survey data from the American Medical Association reveals that nearly 8 in 10 physicians believe the biggest barrier to offering telehealth is the “roll back of COVID-19 waivers, coverage, and payment policies.”
That’s no surprise. When the pandemic hit, regulators waived restrictions that limited who could receive and how doctors could provide care virtually. But those regulations could be reinstated when officials end the public health emergency. Permanently waiving these restrictions could increase access to care, give patients more control over their health, and reduce costs. That’s a commonsense, market-oriented reform that members of both parties should be able to get behind.
Patients like telemedicine. Surveys indicate that about 8 in 10 people who use telehealth are satisfied with it. Even though many patients now have the option of receiving in-person care, more than one-third have received care virtually this year.
Doctors like telemedicine, too. According to the AMA survey, a majority of physicians believe telehealth allows them to provide more comprehensive quality care. More than 80% of doctors feel telehealth gives patients better access to care. Take rural patients. Nearly one-quarter of those living in rural areas say access to good doctors and hospitals is a “major problem” in their community. Telehealth allows these patients to receive care from doctors miles away — from the comfort of their own homes.
Virtual care also saves patients money. An analysis of data from insurer Cigna found that a nonurgent telehealth appointment can save a patient $93 when compared to in-person care.
Finally, telemedicine empowers patients. They can choose which doctor they see and decide when and where their appointment takes place.
That should be appealing to Republicans and Democrats alike. Deregulating telehealth permanently would put us on the path toward a more affordable, patient-centered healthcare system.