Care access has long been an issue in our healthcare system. From cost and geographic barriers, to the complicated nature of scheduling appointments, receiving care is far more difficult than it should be for many Americans. This year, we’ve seen the topic come to the forefront due to COVID-19’s impact on care delivery and the implications of the recently finalized Transparency in Coverage Rule.
As part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing push for price and quality transparency in healthcare, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Departments of Labor and Department of Treasury have spent the past year and a half focused on legislation to enhance access to affordable healthcare. Following the final rule late last year that centered on price transparency for hospitals, the government organizations recently issued a final rule for health plans that ensures all Americans know how much their healthcare will cost prior to receiving care. The goal is to enable consumers to make fully informed and confident care decisions.
Additionally, this year’s pandemic has escalated the care access conversation as well. When the pandemic hit in the spring, stay-at-home mandates forced healthcare to go virtual more than ever before. Telehealth, which has been around for years, went from a “nice to have” care delivery option that was utilized sparingly for the most part, to a “must have” for providers and patients alike who needed to continue delivering and receiving care, respectively. During the peak of the pandemic, telehealth usage saw a 300-fold increase, according to data from Epic. In the months since, the country has seen lows and high in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases, but what we have learned is that telehealth is here to stay. Even as some providers open their practice doors, many are still offering telehealth as an option and allowing the patient to choose their preference between a virtual and in-person visit.
While virtual care has proven its value in the medical world and drastically improved care access, there are certain procedures – such as colonoscopies, mammograms, and MRIs – that still require in-person care. To make care access as easy as possible for those in-person procedures, consumers can look to digital tools that seamlessly show them not only their care cost and quality options in the area, but also help them easily schedule the appointment too. Earlier this year we partnered with Vim to make the appointment scheduling process as seamless as possible. The integrated solution helps remove the complexity for consumers of navigating the healthcare system and helps more patients access high-value care.
Recent transparency legislation and silver linings from the pandemic have enabled significant progress in improving care access and created strong momentum within the healthcare industry as we look forward to 2021. Hospitals and health plans will increase their attention on providing patients access to important medical information and telehealth will continue to be used, especially in routine exams, and pre- and post-op care.
Now that consumers are accustomed to the flexibility of telehealth and have seen how easy access to care can be, the industry must keep up with these consumer expectations and find additional ways to enhance access. This means encouraging the use of consumer-friendly shopping and scheduling tools to help give them the medical information they need to choose and receive care. By finding ways to improve other care processes and consumer pain points, we will get closer to a healthcare system with easy and equal access for all.
Originally published on Linkedin, November 16, 2020.