Patients losing access to physicians as telehealth access rolls back

State by state, telehealth access is rolling back as the pandemic-era emergency orders, which allowed physicians to see patients in multiple states, are lapsing causing some patients to lose access to physicians, NBC News reported June 19. 

According to the Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents the licensing boards in U.S. states and territories, one year ago, 26 states still had pandemic-era waivers that allowed patients to have virtual visits with physicians who were based in other states. Now only 12 states still have their pandemic-era waivers, with states such as California and New Jersey scheduling to let their emergency waivers expire soon. 

Medicare has waived many restrictions on remote and virtual visits, but the waivers are temporary and are scheduled to end after the federal COVID-19 emergency order expires. 

The expiration of waivers has caused patients who seek out care from health systems outside of their state, to lose their physicians and care teams. According to Brian Hasselfeld, MD, medical director, digital health and telemedicine at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine, nearly 1 in 10 of telehealth visits at the health system are with patients who live in states where the system doesn't have operations. 

Because of this, staff members who schedule appointments now have to double-check where patients will physically be for video calls, which didn't matter two years ago, according to Dr. Hasselfeld. 

The rollback has also meant Johns Hopkins patients have had to switch physicians or drive hours to different states when previously video calls from their homes would have been allowed under COVID-19 emergency regulations.

 

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