Declaring a state of emergency gave federal regulators authority to do a lot of different things in response to the COVID pandemic. For example, healthcare providers were given greater flexibility in using telehealth to treat patients. But in a world that is now considered post-COVID, some emergency provisions are set to expire. That has doctors, telehealth companies, and politicians pushing to make COVID flexibility permanent.
A case in point is found in treating patients dealing with addiction. Addiction medicine is a specialty that focuses on treating addiction as a medical issue rather than a behavioral one. It often relies on substitute medications to help patients wean themselves of illicit drugs. Many such patients benefited from telemedicine flexibility during the pandemic by being able to get their prescriptions through virtual visits.
Telemedicine Removes Barriers
In a recent interview discussing the current state of telemedicine within the addiction treatment arena, Cooper University Health Care’s Kaitlin Baston made it clear that telehealth solutions remove barriers that otherwise prevent patients from getting the care they need. How so?
COVID notwithstanding, a patient recovering from addiction may miss a doctor’s appointment because they did not have transportation. Another might miss an appointment because they are not feeling well enough to get up and go to the office. Maintaining telehealth flexibility is an ideal way to help addiction patients continue receiving care without barriers getting in their way.
Representatives from CSI Health agree fully with Baston’s assessment. CSI Health is a San Antonio, TX company that designs and manufactures a variety of telemedicine solutions. They say that removing barriers to healthcare is one of the strongest points telemedicine brings to bear.
Healthcare Delivery Made Easy
Another way to think of removing barriers is to consider how one can go about making healthcare delivery easier. How can it be made easier for both patient and provider? Answer that question and you have the basis for improving service across the entire industry.
A medical kiosk featuring full diagnostic capabilities offers providers the chance to treat patients remotely. Kiosks can be set up in pharmacies, grocery stores, and even free-standing retail clinics that need only be staffed by nurses familiar with telemedicine technology.
A free-standing telehealth clinic represents an easy way for primary care doctors to expand their reach without needing more office staff, more floor space, etc. It represents an easy way for patients to take advantage of primary care without having to drive for miles, sit in a waiting room, and then only see the doctor for ten minutes.
No Compromising on Quality of Care
Despite all that telehealth has to offer, there is a caveat here: the quality of care must not suffer on the road to providing easier access and greater efficiency. If anything, quality of care should improve. Accomplishing higher quality is a matter of designing better technology and figuring out innovative ways to deploy it. Rest assured that companies like CSI Health are doing just that.
In the meantime, many of the emergency provisions put in place to deal with the COVID pandemic have either expired already or are scheduled to expire in the near future. The flexibility to provide prescription medications via telemedicine is one such provision. There are plenty of addiction medicine doctors who do not want to see it go. They want the flexibility made permanent.
A bipartisan effort to that end is now underway. Whether or not it succeeds remains to be seen. Here’s hoping it does, because doctors and patients alike have truly benefited from access to telehealth solutions over the last two years.