Rural hospitals are struggling financially – telehealth may help

The Kenyon Leader recognizes that rural hospitals are in a tricky position…

As part of the state’s COVID-19 lockdown, Gov. Tim Walz’s restricted non-essential hospital services to help hospitals prepare for a potential surge in cases. With the case “curve” largely flattened, restrictions have since been relaxed.

Local hospitals are finding that not only has the region not seen a notable surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, but many patients are now so concerned about contracting the virus that they aren’t coming in for regular care.

This means that patients are going unseen and rural hospitals are losing money – both are bad for the health of the community. Telehealth is offered as one solution…

Asche said that given market pressures, it’s likely that independent hospital groups will continue to be bought up by larger outfits. In order to ensure that rural residents have access to care, he argued that a multifaceted approach is needed.

Improved transportation and additional investment in telehealth is one part of that strategy, Asche said. Investment in telehealth lagged for years, but that has changed rapidly in the face of the global pandemic.

While the technology enabling the significant shift to telemedicine has been in place for years, most providers have preferred to stick with face-to-face appointments. In addition, Medicare and other health insurance often haven’t reimbursed care providers for virtual appointments.

On March 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it would reimburse physicians for telehealth visits at the same rate as for in-person visits. Effective March 1, the change covers checkups and medical care provided for any reason.

Medicare also expanded access by scrapping a rule that required all telehealth visits to take place on devices meeting federal online privacy and security standards. At the state level, additional restrictions on telemedicine reimbursement have been lifted.

I always have to add … telehealth is a great solution for those who have the bandwidth to access it!

This entry was posted in Healthcare, MN, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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