2022 Telehealth Regulatory Reform in Digital Health Recruitment: What to Expect?
Telehealth surged as the Covid-19 pandemic emerged. Without this essential technology, lives would have certainly been lost as many patients would not have had access to care. People suffering from ongoing or chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and auto-immune diseases rely on continuity of care, and telehealth facilitated this need.
But as telehealth grew in importance, regulators were forced to respond quickly. Concerns around data privacy and security, payment parity, and licensing continue to strain the system, and reforms are expected as we head into the post-Covid reality.
Digital health recruiters are eager to chime in, as the future of life sciences and the broader medical field are inexorably tied to these outcomes. Digital transformation is driving many changes in life sciences and informing digital health recruitment trends, so we have a vested interest in the trajectory.
What Telehealth Reforms to Expect in 2022
Let’s look at some of the issues driving telehealth regulatory reform.
With the ability to transact and treat patients wherever they are, the issue of medical licensing became a hot topic. The Interstate Medical Licensing Compact (IMLC) was established to protect state-regulated licensing while enabling healthcare providers to offer services in states other than their own. Currently, the Compact includes 34 states and covers 46 different licensing boards across various disciplines.
Though the IMLC was established in 2013, it’s seen a 47% increase in growth since the start of the pandemic. Physicians can submit one application for a license to practice in all participating states without applying to each state separately. Federal and state governments must also adapt tax laws, which can become complicated if businesses transact in multiple territories.
Telehealth delivery systems must comply with HIPAA. During the pandemic, and considering the dire need for virtual services, regulators have largely looked the other way where communication violations may have occurred. However, with wider adoption, this will not continue. We may expect to see telehealth systems regulated and controlled much the same as the banking sector, with multi-factor authentication or biomarker keys to ensure security. In any case, it will need to be user-friendly to be viable for a mass audience, many of whom might not be technically savvy to begin with.
Going a step beyond HIPAA, data privacy regulation is reaching critical mass. Malicious attacks are becoming more insidious, common, and costly. Considering that the average cost of a data breach is $4.24 million, any missteps in this area could be devastating. Healthcare leadership must be aware of these trends and prioritize data security in all digital healthcare settings. Having the vision to foresee emerging trends and take a proactive approach to mitigate the risk will put life sciences organizations ahead of the curve.
One of the biggest reasons healthcare providers were slow to adopt telehealth in the past was the low reimbursement. Though most providers were enthusiastic about telehealth’s potential, the disparity between in-clinic and telehealth fees was significant, often amounting to about half of what they would typically collect. As telehealth visits have increased to represent 90% of physician visits, reform is needed to ensure clinicians are adequately compensated.
The Telehealth Payment Parity Act of 2021 bridges this gap in certain circumstances. Specifically, it provides full payment for “medically necessary” visits that would be covered under the insurance plan if the visit were in-person.
When the pandemic hit, stopgap regulations were enacted quickly under the Covid-19 national emergency, but a long-term solution is needed. Technology will be vital to managing the payer environment; ideally, a standardized system will be integrated across multiple healthcare verticals to track and gather data to inform widespread and sustainable telehealth payment parity reforms.
Private insurers, including Cigna, Anthem, Aetna, and more, have already recognized the value of telemedicine and other virtual services and have taken great strides to ensure adequate support for telehealth. Studies measuring the impact of telehealth report almost 20% fewer visits to emergency rooms, a significant metric that will positively affect the future of our healthcare system.
Digital Health Recruiters
Recruiting for healthcare in the post-Covid world requires a comprehensive understanding of digital technology like telehealth and how it will shape the future of life sciences. Pact & Partners is committed to providing our clients with visionary executive talent to move them forward into the digital future.