September 18th to the 24th, 2022 marks the second-ever #TelemedicineAwarenessWeek (TAW). The American Telemedicine Association created TAW with the stated goal to "provide new educational resources focused on the key advantages of hybrid care, and elevate the voices of patients and healthcare professionals who depend on telehealth to receive and deliver care."
As we come up on the second annual TAW, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on how far we've come over the last two years. Although telemedicine has been around for decades, it's only since March 2020 that it has really entered the mainstream lexicon.
Most people prior to then probably had no firsthand experience with telemedicine, both on the practitioner side or on the patient side. But since then, telemedicine has allowed for millions of patients to be seen by healthcare providers without putting the patient or the provider at any additional risk of contracting COVID-19.
The added silver lining is that we were also able to bring back providers who have otherwise been excluded from the workforce back into the fold. Most full-time clinician schedules are extremely grueling and demanding. Providers that had recently retired, were taking care of infirm parents or children, or those that already had administrative duties were for the first time able to contribute on their own schedule through both synchronous and asynchronous patient care platforms.
We can't take it as a given that this will be around forever. Already there are signs that protocols put in place during the healthcare emergency will be rolled back. As of now, the public health emergency that allows for expanded telehealth is scheduled to be rolled back on October 13, 2022. This is unlikely to happen as CMS has stated they will provide at least 60 days notice prior to the official end of the public health emergency.
But why even consider ending these telehealth expansions? New times clearly call for new solutions and it's too late to put the genie back in the bottle. And why would we? Overwhelming research has shown that telemedicine is not only convenient, and it has improved both patient and provider satisfaction.
Have you benefited or enjoyed any of the benefits of telemedicine in the last few years?? If you have, we encourage to raise your voices and share your experience during #TelemedicineAwarenessWeek. I know we will.