Healthcare Leaders Form Taskforce on Telehealth

June 18, 2020

Will produce recommendations for policymakers on crucial issues for future of remote care services.

Amidst an unprecedented increase in the use of remote medical services, twenty of the nation’s leading healthcare voices recently announced the formation of a Taskforce on Telehealth Policy aimed at developing long-term recommendations.

The group-representing a broad spectrum of plans, providers, consumer advocates and health quality experts from the public, private and non-profit sectors-will develop consensus recommendations for policymakers on how to maximize the benefits of telehealth services while maintaining high standards for patient safety and program integrity. Other priorities to be addressed include the integration of remote care into the healthcare ecosystem and ensuring the quality, accessibility, and efficacy of telehealth. The taskforce will be convened by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, Alliance for Connected Care, and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).

The need for a comprehensive review of telehealth policy is highlighted by some remarkable data collected since March. Every element of healthcare has been affected by the major increases in telehealth and remote patient care. Many patients and providers have experienced the capabilities of telehealth for the first time and are interested in continuing to use it. Traditional (fee-for-service) Medicare has seen the number of remote visits increase from roughly 12,000 per week to over a million per week, according to recent comments from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma.

The Commonwealth Fund found that, in the mid-April peak of the current spread, in-person visits fell by nearly 70 percent, with telehealth visits offsetting as much as 20 percent of that decline. Many public and private payers, including CMS, have substantially relaxed telehealth restrictions during the pandemic.

“We need to get this moment in healthcare right by optimizing the quality and value of telehealth for everyone,” says NCQA President Margaret (Peggy) O’Kane. “The fact that such an accomplished group of people are willing to dedicate their time, on short notice, to this task speaks to how high the stakes truly are.”

“The value of telehealth during this emergency is undeniable, and the policy changes that were made by Congress and the Trump Administration were essential,” says Alliance for Connected Care Executive Director Krista Drobac. “This Taskforce can take what we have collectively learned in the past three months and develop thoughtful recommendations that will provide access to remote care for the long-term while balancing cost, quality and judicious use of taxpayer dollars.”

“The ATA was proud to represent our industry at yesterday’s Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on telehealth, helping to build the case for extending access to virtual care indefinitely. This Telehealth Policy Task Force will help to maintain a strong, unified, and compelling voice needed to cement those gains,” adds Ann Mond Johnson, CEO, the ATA. “Telehealth has played a vital role in responding to the pandemic, driving a rapid transformation in how care is delivered. Working together, we must ensure access to care for all who need it.”

The Taskforce on Telehealth will hold its first meeting on Monday, June 29 and deliberate through the summer. Final recommendations will be issued in early September.