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According to a recent study by McKinsey, consumer interest in telemedicine rose from 11% to 76% during the pandemic, 57% of healthcare providers said they viewed telemedicine more favorably, and 64% of providers are comfortable using telemedicine. In the course of just a few months, telemedicine physician visits rose 50 – 175x, depending on geography and type of practice.

Telehealth has helped expand access to care at a time when the pandemic has severely restricted patients’ ability to see their doctors. Actions taken by health-care leaders today will determine if the full potential of telehealth is realized after the crisis has passed.

The types of changes made by the states (and CMS, which guides rules for some states) vary and include: allowing additional services to be delivered via tele technologies; relaxing provider licensing requirements; amending reimbursement rules (often reimbursing at the higher office visit rates to encourage telemedicine use); and allowing different modes of technology, such as audio-only calls.

Exactly which medical services can be effectively delivered through telemedicine is also yet to be determined. Currently, fewer than 100 medical services are approved for telemedicine by CMS, which is a small fraction of the 8,000+ services covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

For workers’s compensation claims, the lest of benefits for use of telemedicine include:

– – Reduce care delays and improve access to timely care
– – Increase provider options, especially in rural areas
– – Compensate for physician shortages, especially in rural areas
– – Reduce time away from work for employee healthcare visits
– – Mitigate transportation issues
– – Quick and convenient access to physical therapy
– – Expand availability of mental and behavioral health therapy
– – Lower costs for payers and employers
– – Increased patient satisfaction

In workers’ comp, telemedicine also gained wider acceptance during the pandemic as many states relaxed restrictions regarding its use for injured worker patients.

Many of the legal and regulatory changes regarding telemedicine are temporary, and it remains to be seen which will become permanent and where.