Aitkin Age posts a letter from a reader (and healthcare worker) about extending rules that support and promote continued telehealth…
The arrival of COVID-19 in Minnesota in early 2020 presented a series of challenges for Minnesota’s hospitals, health systems and the communities we serve.
Our health care providers at Riverwood Healthcare Center were confronted with preparing for and responding to COVID-19 while also providing non-COVID-19 care. Our patients were faced with making decisions about accessing care – including whether care capacity was available and whether they felt safe seeking care.
Expanding the use of telehealth was a way for providers to see patients and preserve personal protective equipment and a way for patients to access care but feel safe from exposure to COVID-19. Its use in Minnesota grew significantly during the pandemic. Now we have the opportunity to increase access to telehealth for Minnesotans and make permanent some of the temporary advances that occurred during COVID-19 through bipartisan legislation, Senate File 1160 and House File 1412. The bills are sponsored by Republican Sen. Julie Rosen and DFL Rep. Kelly Morrison, one of two physicians in the Legislature.
While previous law required patients to go to a health care provider site to access telehealth, this bill would continue to allow providers to deliver telehealth services directly to a patient’s home setting via audio-only telephone calls, or via secure two-way audio-video services on a tablet or computer. The legislation would allow scheduled visits to be conducted by telephone when a patient does not have access to internet or the appropriate electronic device at their location. These care delivery practices are currently in effect due to COVID-19.
Increased access to telehealth is patient-centered care. Allowing patients to access telehealth from their own home setting without the need to travel removes a barrier to getting needed health care and enhances equity within our statewide system of care.
At Riverwood, we have seen the positive results of increased adoption of virtual visits. We serve a rural community where patients often need to drive significant distances of 20 to 30 miles or more to get care in person at one of our clinics. A virtual video visit for more routine care like discussing medications and how they’re working is a huge benefit when the patient can do this from home.
The pandemic accelerated the adoption and practice of telehealth in all aspects of care delivery, which has reduced barriers to health care access and made a difference for our patients and communities across the state. Please join me in contacting our local legislators so we can keep this expanded access to telehealth in our community.
Timothy Arnold, MD, Riverwood Healthcare Center