GNYHA’s June 23 telehealth webinar reviewed how hospital use of telehealth boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluated ways to enhance it in terms of State and Federal policies, reimbursement, technology, services, and privacy and security. The webinar was part of GNYHA’s Telehealth Learning Series.
Going forward, “we need to answer certain questions,” said GNYHA’s Zeynep Sumer King, Vice President, Regulatory and Professional Affairs, and address the urgent need to update Medicare telehealth rules, which were enacted years ago when the technology was nascent and associated costs prohibitively high.
During the COVID-19 emergency, Rochester Regional Health (RRH) focused on telehealth in different ways, including via its Care Now real-time platform, which was launched a few years earlier for employee use. RRH is now developing telehealth policies based on what it learned during the pandemic. “We wanted a more uniform telehealth platform that everyone could use, we wanted more flexibility, we wanted to streamline the requirements we put on people,” Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer John Glynn said. RRH’s future telehealth focus will be on fully integrating with their Epic electronic health record.
NYU Langone Health’s Viraj Lakdawala, MD, Medical Director, Virtual Urgent Care, highlighted the need for formal training in telehealth, which “requires a unique set of communication skills.” During the pandemic, NYU Langone had to address “the fact that no one in a graduate medical education setting or even in post-residency graduation had really any formal telemedicine training.” As a solution, NYU Langone leveraged a standardized performance assessment checklist that its Division of General Internal Medicine had previously used for residents. “Post-COVID, we added resident assessment and training in telehealth.” He highlighted the Virtual Urgent Care dashboard, which NYU Langone used during the pandemic on higher-acuity patients to avoid sending them into COVID-19-stricken emergency departments.
Lauren Broffman, PhD, Associate Director, Clinical Research, at Ro, a health care technology company, discussed ways to leverage telehealth to potentially boost equity. “Telehealth can facilitate around-the-clock access,” she said, noting that studies have highlighted this as a possible equity driver. She cautioned that “the problems (around equity) are complicated so the solutions need to be multifaceted and the frameworks need to be flexible. Equitable telehealth meets patients were they are. We need to think about that more broadly.”
GNYHA will work with members as ongoing discussions on telehealth policy and implementation occur at the local and national level.