Taskforce on Telehealth Policy holds town hall to solicit public input

Convened by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Alliance for Connected Care and the American Telemedicine Association, the task force said it would release a final recommendations report in September.
By Kat Jercich
05:02 PM

The Taskforce on Telehealth Policy on Tuesday held a virtual town hall to solicit public input for its recommendations concerning the future of virtual care.

The task force, which is led by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the Alliance for Connected Care and the American Telemedicine Association, said it heard from more than 300 commenters in advance of the town hall.

"What we've really seen is that telehealth has played a vital role in responding to the pandemic and driving a rapid transformation in the way care is delivered," said ATA president Ann Mond Johnson during the town hall.

The NCQA will facilitate a subgroup on quality and data care; the ACC will oversee one on cost; and the ATA will lead the way on recommendations regarding patient safety and program integrity.

"COVID-19 has driven so much of the environment around telehealth," said Frank Micciche, NCQA vice president of public policy and external relations, in an interview with Healthcare IT News before the town hall.

"We wouldn't be having this conversation … if telehealth hadn't been thrust into the spotlight as one of the only options for people" during a time of social distancing, said Micciche.

Although President Donald Trump's recent executive order regarding the permanent expansion of telehealth certainly makes it easier to assume virtual care will be around in the future, Micciche said the task force was committed to concentrating on the details rather than the legislative barriers that must be overcome in order to keep telehealth broadly accessible.

"None of those [subgroups] are specifically tasked with deciding whether or which the changes made under the emergency should be made permanent," said Micciche. "That's a nice confluence, but the task force was not intended to make a judgment on that necessarily."

"Now that we've presumably cleared that hurdle" around telehealth rules wholly reverting back to their pre-COVID statuses, "we don't have to worry about these things going away in December," Micciche continued.

The details, he said, are where "there's going to be less consensus. And that's policy-making!"

The task force expects to release a final recommendations report in early September.

During the town hall, multiple stakeholders weighed in on the importance of tracking patient data regarding telehealth numbers, supporting provider and patient engagement via asynchronous portals, allowing clinicians to prescribe controlled substances safely via virtual care, and ensuring organizations have adequate telehealth infrastructure in place.

"I think it's important to integrate and prioritize social determinants of health –  to ensure that folks are collecting data as it relates to ZIP code, but also collecting [other] information that will hopefully help inform us," said Vanessa Guzman, chief executive officer of SmartRise Health, during the public comment section of the town hall.

When it comes to data and deliverables, said Micciche during the town hall, "Outcome measure is the holy grail that we're always trying to get to. If there is an opportunity due to the unique characteristics of telehealth to get further along in outcome ... then that's' the kind of thing we're interested in."

At the same time, ACC executive director Krista Drobac pointed out, it's important to make sure "we don't hold telehealth to a higher standard than in-person care."

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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