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  • Home Test to Treat Program Expansion Increases Telehealth Access


    Last month the National Institutes of Health (NIH)  announced an expansion of the Home Test to Treat Program, which began during the pandemic to offer free COVID-19 virtual health services, including at-home tests and treatments, as well as telehealth visits. The program has now been expanded to include testing, treatment, and telehealth visits related to the flu. Home testing technology offered initially will be the Pfizer COVID-19 & Flu Home Test, which is the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved test that can detect both viruses at the same time.
    Adults can enroll and receive free tests if uninsured or enrolled in MedicareMedicaid, the Veterans Affairs health care system, or Indian Health Services. As part of the program, all adults with a positive COVID-19 or flu test can enroll to receive free telehealth visits and treatment, as well as home-delivery of medications. More information on eligibility requirements and a link to register can be found on the program’s website.
    The announcement from NIH discusses how the goal of the program is to not only to improve in-home access to care but also to expedite the time to treatment. The program is under the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at NIH, which will also be assessing research related to the Home Test to Treat program to determine patient benefits and important factors related to home test to treat services more broadly. Ultimately, the program is being funded to better understand how at-home tests and telemedicine can improve healthcare access to determine the need for similar programs.
    The pandemic offered many pilot opportunities, especially for telehealth, and the additional research that comes from programs like Home Test to Treat can also help to generally inform policymakers on long-term telehealth needs and benefits to both providers and patients. However, the fact that the program’s services are completely separate from insurance and potentially existing providers, may complicate the ability to determine some of the issues of interest to policymakers related to telehealth utilization trends, payer cost, and continuity of care. To assess the program’s ability to improve access, it will also be important that the program be well-advertised so that the public is aware of its availability. Nevertheless, the announced expansion is indicative of the potential of telehealth – and the need for its continued expansion – to further improve health care access.
    For additional information on the program, please visit the Home Test to Treat Program site

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