Is Telehealth Here for the Long Haul?

Telehealth comes in many forms, mainly being virtual visits with doctors, therapists, counselors, or other professionals.  Telehealth allows a patient to talk to their doctor live, send and receive messages from your doctor or therapist, and use remote monitoring to gather vital signs to allow your doctor to stay informed on your progress.

Unlike so many “internet fads,” telehealth is here to stay.  Telehealth is here to stay because it is a lucrative, untapped resource for millions of people seeking therapy for various reasons. 

It is unfortunate that the “war on drugs” is bigger than we can control now.   Sadly, the production of heroin or opium isn’t slowing down because there is money to be made in the illegal drug business.  In the meantime, addiction treatment can help put a much needed “tourniquet on a wound that won’t stop bleeding.”  While addiction treatment centers, both virtual and in person, cannot put a stop to overall drug production, we can continue to advocate, educate and help the ones who have been directly affected by it. 

Back in 2016, The Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act was passed to extend telehealth flexibilities by making permanent key waivers, including the ability to prescribe Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) and other necessary medications, and the ability to bill Medicare for audio-only telehealth services.  By taking these steps, the legislation had increased overall access to MAT and support telehealth needs in rural communities where broadband was perhaps unreliable.

“The opioid crisis hasn’t gone away since the start of the COVID pandemic, in fact it has gotten worse,” said West Virginia Congressman David McKinley. “Ensuring that all Americans have access to vital substance abuse treatment is crucial to getting this opioid crisis under control. This bill does just that by making sure that Americans of all zip codes have equal access to care no matter where they live.”

In December of 2021, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 122.Notable provisions of the bill include expanding the classes of providers authorized to provide telehealth services and thus considered “health care professionals” for purposes health plan telehealth coverage. Previously, only physicians, physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses were considered “health care professionals” for purposes of providing telehealth services. HB122 expands this classification to include optometrists, pharmacists, phycologists, chemical dependency counselors, dieticians and many others. This expansion should have the effect of improving the coverage and availability of telehealth services from these professionals.

Long story short, the concept of supply and demand can be applied here.  There will always be people in need of mental, emotional, or physical help in some sort of medical, clinical, or therapeutic capacity.  People are always looking for the next best and convenient way to better themselves or to accomplish something, and telehealth is just that.