San Diego

Many fear Medicare patients could lose telemedicine coverage

San Diego healthcare suppliers say it’s necessary to maintain telemedicine to supply equitable healthcare to all patients.

SAN DIEGO — The way forward for physician visits is in telemedicine. Local healthcare suppliers say earlier than the pandemic digital visits have been nonetheless new, however throughout COVID restrictions telemedicine skyrocketed. At Sharp Healthcare it went from a modest 200 telehealth visits a month to 10,000 a day.

“Our yearly goal we accomplished in about a single day,” mentioned Dr. Elan Hekier, M.D., Chief Information and Innovation Officer, Sharp-Reese-Stealy Medical Group.  

At Kaiser Permanente, virtually all of their outpatient appointments have been telemedicine in comparison with 30% pre-pandemic.  

“During the pandemic, we had months that we got up to low to mid 90’s (percent),” mentioned Dr. Brian Bronson, M.D., Chief of Family Medicine, Kaiser Permanente San Diego. 

At Scripps Health 71% of visits have been telemedicine.  

“COVID hit and we jumped up to 60,000 visits in April from less than 20 a week,” Dr. David Wetherhold, Chief Medical Information Officer for Ambulatory Systems, Scripps Health.  

UC San Diego Health says telemedicine went from lower than 1% earlier than COVID-19 to 27% from March 2020 to July 2021.  

The want for telemedicine can be important for psychological well being. The American Medical Association mentioned in the course of the pandemic psychological well being care made up 61.7% of nationwide telehealth visits in 2020.  

While not as excessive in San Diego, at Sharp Healthcare, some made up half of the telemedicine visits.  

“In mental health or other specialties we are seeing 51% or more of telehealth,” mentioned Hekier.  

While e-visits have dropped to in regards to the 20% vary, telemedicine helps present equitable healthcare particularly to those that can’t go away work or take metropolis bus. Doctors hope broadband or entry to expertise for telemedicine may even be expanded.  

“It’s not just convenience for those that can afford computers but anyone who needs it and those that really need access,” mentioned Wetherhold. 

Doctors say telemedicine won’t change in-person visits or emergency conditions, nevertheless it could speed up telehealth care to distant affected person monitoring at Scripps Health the place patients are given instruments to assist diagnose them.  

“We can actually do a remote examination and say alright put that stethoscope there and I can hear you. It really gets you closer to doing an in-person without being here,” mentioned Wetherhold.  

Telehealth will be achieved over the cellphone, video or textual content on the identical stage of care and there’s nonetheless a co-pay for personal insurance coverage.  

For Medi-Cal patients, the 2021-2022 time-frame appropriates $151.1 million for the extension of telehealth flexibilities allowed in the course of the federal public well being emergency declaration, together with cost parity for audio-only modalities, by way of December 2022, and consists of $106.4 million for the coverage of distant affected person monitoring. 

In California, there are 13.8 million individuals enrolled in Medi-Cal statewide and 934,000 are enrolled in San Diego county, which is roughly 7% of Medi-Cal patients.  

For Medicare patients, telehealth could go away as soon as the general public well being emergency declaration is lifted.  

“It’s all about access,” mentioned Hekier.  

“I’m confident that telehealth is here to stay,” mentioned Bronson. 

Congress is urging Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccerra to develop a everlasting and complete telehealth plan for Medicare patients.

Would you slightly see your physician for in-person non-emergency well being care or meet nearly? San Diego healthcare…

Posted by CBS 8 San Diego on Thursday, July 22, 2021

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