The COVID-19 pandemic has facilitated the unprecedented growth of telehealth, with a 78-times increase in use from February 2020 to April 2021. And even as widespread vaccination of the American public has lowered the risk for people to go back to in-person doctor’s appointments, many continue to utilize telehealth services. With telehealth here to stay, what can and will the Biden administration do to not only harness its power, but also advance digital equity to create more efficient and effective use by health practitioners and patients?
On this episode of TechTank, Brookings researcher and guest host, Samantha Lai, is joined by Nicol Turner Lee and Niam Yaraghi from the Brookings Institution to talk about their upcoming paper on telehealth and the important elements of a telehealth 2.0 roadmap coming out of the pandemic. As policymakers, advocates, industry professionals, and patients consider the next iteration of telehealth, how will past legislation that limited the use and reimbursement of telehealth be treated? What have been lessons during the pandemic that can be applied to both the provision and quality of telehealth and other forms of remote care? Will care modality matter in the next iteration of telehealth, especially if it means more patients – regardless of proximity to medical institutions or doctors – can be treated equitably? How will other elements of the health care system, like Health Information Exchanges, be modernized? And will telehealth be successful if the U.S. does not close the digital divide? All of these are important questions to answer in order for the nation to better chart a path to the responsible, inclusive, and flexible use of telehealth going forward.