Now is the time for insurance carriers, employee health plan administrators and healthcare providers to encourage their insureds, plan participants and patients to make use of this valuable tool where available.

Telemedicine will be instrumental in combating the outbreak of coronavirus. Social distancing and telemedicine go hand in hand. Telemedicine is particularly well suited for initial screening of patients, providing quicker and safer access to providers and is already proving to be a useful tool in helping to manage the outbreak.

Consumer adoption is still relatively low, despite all the benefits of telemedicine. However, usage is very much on the incline. According to JD Power, the American Medical Association reported insurance claims related to telehealth increased 53% from 2016 to 2017. The same study revealed customer satisfaction is high and positive word of mouth is leading to increased usage.

Whether it is real-time video interaction, "store and forward" technology, remote patient monitoring or online chat groups and internet sites, each of these methods is useful in limiting in-person visits to medical providers which may help slow the spread of coronavirus and other illnesses.

Those who feel ill can use telemedicine to avoid showing up unannounced at a doctor's office or the emergency room, yet still receive necessary and quality care. The use of telemedicine in its many forms helps to ensure healthcare staff and resources are not put at unnecessary risk or overly taxed. Moreover, remote treatment of infected patients who remain at home helps protect the spread of the virus to others.

As part of the emergency funding measure approved by Congress, the use of telemedicine will be expanded under Medicare, increasing availability to the elderly who are most at risk by this virus.

In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced expanded access to telemedicine by immediately allowing Medicaid beneficiaries to receive services in their home in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The benefits of telemedicine during this historic viral outbreak are irrefutable. Health systems, insurance carriers, and healthcare plan administrators should all re-examine how to best encourage increased usage. The experienced health care team at Dickinson Wright can help you do just that. Reach out to our team today.

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