Has telehealth fulfilled its promise?

Even though Congress is working to extend pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities, political leaders say the care model has yet to live up to its promise, Politico reported.

But other experts said even small changes in healthcare are a big deal, according to the June 20 story.

"It hasn't taken off like we thought," former U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who once called telemedicine "one of the best things, probably, since sliced bread," told the news outlet. "It can be [transformational], but progress is not as fast as we thought it could have been."

Usage has been low in rural areas, where telehealth was viewed as an opportunity to expand access to care, and has declined since the pandemic, according to the article. However, virtual care accounted for 6% of healthcare visits in 2023, compared to 0.2% in 2019, per Epic data. Harvard researcher Ateev Mehrotra, MD, said telemedicine has led to slight increases in visits, spending and quality.

"I've never said it's going to reinvent healthcare," U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., told Politico. "I have plenty of examples where it's saved lives and money. … It's still in that trial phase."

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