More than 360 organizations have signed a letter co-led by HIMSS urging Congressional leadership to chart a path forward for comprehensive, permanent telehealth reform.
The healthcare and industry organizations are seeking certainty — on behalf of patients and U.S. healthcare providers — that necessary telehealth flexibilities tied to the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) won’t suddenly disappear when the PHE declaration ultimately expires.
The PHE can only be renewed for 90 days at a time, although the Biden Administration has said it would give at least 60 days’ notice before it would let it expire. The letter also calls on Congress and the Administration to analyze the impact telehealth has had on patient care, outcomes and cost. The increased flexibility has expanded access, particularly to specialists, to countless individuals including those in rural and underserved communities.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic began exposing gaps in our healthcare system, telehealth enabled critical access to high-quality care for patients and providers alike. Over the past two years, millions of Americans have gained firsthand experience with the benefits of telehealth and other virtual care tools, and they want to keep those benefits,” said Tom Leary, Senior Vice President and Head of Government Relations, HIMSS. “With so much uncertainty remaining around telehealth permanence, we now call on Congress to ensure millions of Americans don’t lose access to this care and to take action to enact comprehensive telehealth reform.”
The letter outlines three main asks of Congress:
Virtual care is now a fundamental part of the U.S. healthcare system. A majority of U.S. voters believe Congress should protect their ability and choice to see a provider via telehealth post-pandemic. Americans value telehealth as one of the most positive improvements to our nation’s healthcare system in recent memory, according to patient satisfaction surveys and claims data from CMS and private health plans.
The letter to Congress was co-led by HIMSS and PCHAlliance along with the Alliance for Connected Care, American Telemedicine Association (ATA), College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Executives for Health Innovation (EHI), Health Innovation Alliance and Partnership to Advance Virtual Care.
The multi-stakeholder letter follows on the heels of 45 members of Congress sending a letter to Congressional leaders similarly urging for an extension of Medicare telehealth coverage beyond the PHE declaration as part of the latest round of government funding negotiations.
The HIMSS policy team works closely with the U.S. Congress, federal decision makers, state legislatures and governments, and other organizations to recommend policy, and legislative and regulatory solutions to improve health through information and technology.