Though Covid 19 brought numerous challenges, hardships, and pain to people’s lives, it did force society to rethink how we go about our daily lives. While telehealth existed before Covid-19, the pandemic normalized this mode of care, allowing Americans to see their doctors from the comfort of their homes, cars, or locations other than a doctor’s office. Yet, as life returns to normal, outdated regulations about telehealth are being reinstated — making common sense, affordable health care less accessible to the people who need it the most.
The Goldwater Institute, a grantee of Stand Together Trust (STT), and the state of Arizona are showing lawmakers a path to updating antiquated laws so that patients and doctors can continue to receive personalized care that represents the future of healthcare.
Last year, the state of Arizona enacted House Bill 2454, which allows registered healthcare providers who are in good standing in other states to provide services to Arizonans via telehealth. Informed by expertise from The Goldwater Institute and passed with strong bipartisan support, this reform not only creates flexibility for patients, but it also enables some of the most vulnerable patients to continue to get the care they need.
At the Goldwater blog, Naomi Lopez, Vice President for Healthcare Policy, explains:
Take Claudia, for example. She spent six hours a day, twice a week behind the wheel of her car, making the round-trip drive through the Arizona desert from her home in Yuma, Arizona, to Phoenix to take her disabled daughter to regular appointments at a medical facility that could provide the care her daughter needed. Thankfully, most of those long days of travel now take place just once a month due to Arizona’s reform. Claudia’s daughter not only has access to the leading specialists, but most of her appointments can now take place from the comfort of their home.
It’s common sense to trust patients and health care providers to make their own decisions about when care can be administered online and when it needs to be in person. This sort of transformation in the healthcare industry is long overdue. Allowing expanded telehealth services to become permanent in Arizona means:
- Residents in rural areas will have access to “exceptional care available in larger urban areas” without added travel or expense.
- Medical facilities like hospitals or medical practices to access support or assistance from specialists without having to have them in-house.
- New payment models that work better for patients can be considered.
Reforms like HB 2454 are “a rejection of the business-as-usual approach to healthcare delivery and [allow] providers to put patients first.” Furthermore, telehealth creates more equality in health care by reaching patients who don’t have easy access to transportation, who are homebound because of illness, or who live in remote areas.
Goldwater Institute hopes Arizona’s reform can be a model for other states looking to make Covid-era expanded telehealth services permanent. As part of that effort, the Institute has developed metrics to track and document the impact – utilization, outcomes, and socio-economic impact – of telehealth reform in Arizona and across the nation. Using publicly accessible data, Goldwater will produce analyses and geographic data visualizations that illustrate how market-based solutions like telehealth are the best approach for achieving better health care access.
Innovation, not government bureaucracy and red tape, holds the promise for delivering on the promises of 21st century care. As Amanda Hagerman, Healthcare Policy Analyst for Goldwater Institute says, “We live in a technological age, and state legislation needs to embrace it.”
Read more here from Goldwater Institute about how telehealth lowers costs and improves patient outcomes in health care.