Telehealth in a Time of Social Distancing
March 19, 2020
By John Pennett
In a world sudden fraught with the dangers of interpersonal contact, the life science community is innovating and finding ways to use existing technology. According to Wikipedia, telehealth (or telemedicine) allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.
Telehealth providers typically face significant licensure and regulatory hurdles to become operational. Still, they can offer a vital public health service at this time. In fact, Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to respond to COVID-19. According to a Medicare statement, beneficiaries can temporarily use telehealth services for common office visits, mental health counseling and preventive health screenings. This will help ensure Medicare beneficiaries are able to visit with their doctor from their home, without having to go to a doctor's office or hospital, which puts themselves and others at risk.
For some providers, offering telemedicine may open a bit of a tax concern. By “seeing” patients cross state lines (or even across country borders), doctors and other medical services providers may encounter increased filing responsibilities with new taxing authorities. If telehealth becomes prevalent as a “go to” measure, this certainly bears watching.