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COVID Boosts Embrace of Telehealth in Western States

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020   

LAS VEGAS -- Telehealth was a lifeline for rural communities even before COVID-19, but such services will likely be further transformed as Americans avoid unwanted social interactions.

This month, governors from Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington announced they will work together to establish a guide of best practices supporting telehealth in each state.

Public health expert Christina Madison, associate professor of Pharmacy Practice at Nevada's Roseman University, said if some people were reluctant to embrace telehealth or telemedicine previously, COVID-19 has made it the new normal.

"We're kind of at this touchstone within the health care system that I think is really going to revolutionize how we provide care to patients," Madison said.

The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced its intention to make permanent some of the telehealth flexibilities approved during the pandemic.

Madison said dermatologists, psychologists and those treating people with AIDS see a large number of patients via telehealth, but general practitioners can also be accessed as long as there isn't an emergency.

She said some older adults still have difficulty accessing the technology for telemedicine, but enlisting a family member to create "facilitated" telemedicine appointments allows them to connect with a provider using a smartphone, tablet or laptop with webcam. She added it's an easier way to consult with a health-care provider, while avoiding wait times or finding transportation to the doctor's office.

"Some people are just always going to want to come into the office. But there's going to be people who are going to just be fine with calling somebody on the phone, and then they're never going to need to leave their house because then they're going to have the pharmacy deliver their prescription," Madison said.

Data shows nationwide, nearly 59 million Americans live in areas with a shortage of access to local primary care.


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