Western states embark on new telehealth partnership
Governors Jay Inslee of Washington, Kate Brown of Oregon, Steve Sisolak of Nevada and Jared Polis of Colorado say their states, just as they have with other areas of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be collaborating on telehealth strategy.
Given their states' "significant individual and collective experience with telehealth," the governors say they'll work together to help "ensure that the nation benefits from our knowledge as changes to federal regulations are contemplated, to support continued application and availability of telehealth in our states, and to ensure that we address the inequities faced in particular by tribal communities and communities of color."
THE LARGER TREND
While each will have its own unique approaches telehealth policy, the governors say all four states will be guided by seven principles:
- Access. Virtual care should enable and promote "adequate, culturally responsive, patient-centered equitable access" to healthcare.
- Confidentiality. Patient privacy and should be protected, the governors said, and patients should provide informed consent to receive care via the specific technology used to provide it.
- Equity. "We will focus on improving equitable access to providers and addressing inequities and disparities in care. Telehealth should be available to every member, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, income, class, disability, immigration status, nationality, religious belief, language proficiency or geographic location."
- Standard-of-care requirements. These should apply to all healthcare services provided virtually, "including quality, utilization, cost, medical necessity and clinical appropriateness."
- Stewardship. The four states say they'll require evidence-based strategies for the delivery of quality care, and will take steps to mitigate and address fraud, waste, discriminatory barriers and abuse.
- Patient choice. "Patients, in conjunction with their providers, should be offered their choice of service delivery mode," the governors said, and likewise should "retain the right to receive healthcare in person."
- Payment and reimbursement. Service provided via telehealth modalities will be considered in the context of individual state’s methods of reimbursement, they said.
The governors said they plan to work with the federal government on virtual care issues, and called on agencies to embrace a similar "coordinated and principle[s]-driven approach."
ON THE RECORD
"The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the demand for telehealth services nationally, and in our states," said leaders from each in a joint statement. "With patients reluctant to seek in-person care due to exposure risk and transportation access issues, telehealth has offered a way for patients to connect with health providers while mitigating exposure risk.
"It has also highlighted some of the inequities of our healthcare systems," they added. "During the COVID-19 crisis, each state has sought flexibilities from the federal government to expand health services available through telehealth, modify payment policy for services provided using this modality, and expand the allowable technologies used to provide telehealth services."
With the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services announcing this week that it would "make permanent some of the telehealth flexibilities afforded during this pandemic," they said, "telehealth is here to stay."