Virtual Medicine, Telemedicine, Telehealth are terms that describe a fast-growing, consumer-centric, technology mediated mechanism of healthcare delivery. What was a rapidly expanding but small segment of the healthcare delivery system is now witnessing explosive growth in market share, propelled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Telehealth opportunities are expanding rapidly as employers, retail clinics, health entrepreneurs and healthcare delivery enter and expand the market. Patients are increasingly demanding healthcare experiences that more closely align with modern commercial interactions and the necessities of social distancing. Patients also appreciate the ready access, prompt answers and transparent costs.
Telehealth, often looked upon as an acute care modality, is now demonstrating its utility across all health disciplines from critical care to population health. Telehealth will increasingly be used to monitor and intervene in chronic health conditions. Tele-mental health, due to its convenience, accessibility and relative anonymity, had already established itself within the framework of virtual care delivery, and now solidifies the use of this modality even further, creating the potential of improved access and timeliness of care in this historically capacity constrained but essential specialty.
Telehealth recently received a tremendous boost when CMS announced expanded Medicare telehealth coverage to enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services without having to travel to an office, clinic or health care facility. Previously, Medicare was only allowed to pay health professionals for telemedicine services in certain situations.
The rapid rise of telehealth programs will only continue to accelerate as COVID-19 pandemic forces a fundamental reconsideration of traditional healthcare delivery practices. Further, it’s unreasonable to suggest we will ever return back to “normal” as it relates to use of telehealth modalities, as patients, providers, systems, payers, and legislators are now all aligned in the expansion of these services. Truly, we all now have skin in this game.
The PA Profession and Telehealth
The PA profession was born from a revolutionary re-imagining of the healthcare workforce. From a single program in 1965, the PA profession has grown to encompass over 140,000 healthcare professionals and 250 accredited PA training programs. The PA profession, borne of revolution, has consistently demonstrated the ability to flexibly respond to the urgent needs of patients and the evolving needs of a dynamic healthcare delivery system. The urgency of the telehealth revolution finds a ready care team in the nation’s PA workforce.
In order for PAs to maximize their beneficial impact in telehealth, there must be a professional home that serves the needs of this workforce. The association of PAs in Virtual Medicine and Telemedicine (PAVMT) is poised to serve this burgeoning need.
PAVMT, led by a dedicated team of officers and propelled by the affinity expressed by over 5,000 professional allies on across social media platforms like Facebook, is poised to establish itself among the front ranks of PA specialty associations.
I encourage all PAs with an interest in telehealth to become members of PAVMT. Together we have an unprecedented opportunity to advocate for and to shape a burgeoning field of medicine. Together, we will form a community to share ideas, best practices and provide a clearing house of telehealth information for PAs, patients, payors, regulators, health systems and all members of the care team.
As I speak to PAs across the country, I find them energized by the opportunity and ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead. I look forward to the evolution of PAVMT and its contributions to the profession and to the entire healthcare community.