By Steve Burke
Pinkston News Service
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 52.7 million Medicare visits were conducted via telehealth in 2020, a 63-fold increase from 840,000 visits in 2019. A century-old concept, telehealth has blossomed out of a need to limit exposure to the deadly COVID-19 virus. Now, as the health emergency fades, the technology is being repurposed to satisfy a host of other medical needs.
In February, the tech giant Amazon announced it is entering the telehealth space, with a national rollout of its Amazon Care telehealth platform to more than 20 U.S. cities in 2022. The scale of this endeavor will make interactive online encounters far more common. And they are not the only ones in the space.
One company, eMed, (www.eMed.com) uses an at-home COVID-19 test supervised by an online certified guide to help testees conduct their tests. eMed is now leveraging its virtually guided service with a new “Test-to-Treat” program that will give Covid positive individuals a prescription for treatment if necessary.
eMed’s Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Patrice Harris said in a company press release, “we can not only determine the status of infection, but we can now grant access to lifesaving antiviral therapies immediately upon receiving a positive test result.” Dr. Harris previously served as the President of the American Medical Association (AMA) from 2019-2020.
Federal rules that govern how doctors can be paid for using these services however are an obstacle to wide-scale adoption. These rules were suspended during the pandemic and recently extended by Congress for another five months, leaving the door open for supporters to make these rules permanent.