This morning I had my first experience with a scheduled doctor visit using telemedicine.
The COVID pandemic made the choice between a physical visit and a televisit pretty obvious.
I feel safer at home.
Yet I had my concerns.
I’m still not sure if I’m impressed or weirded out by the idea of meeting in real time with a doctor on a screen. I guess I’m not a first adopter at heart.
This visit went fine.
And I totally get that healthcare provided by one version or another of telemedicine has been great for people who might have otherwise gone without receiving health services at all.
Like in rural areas.
Or for those who are homebound.
It was certainly convenient for me.
I also read that insurance companies see it as a way to save money and increase profits.
I have real concerns about this kind of healthcare becoming the norm.
Digital inequality is already a fact of life and now connect that to already problematic access to quality medical care for the poor, the elderly and in many Black and Brown communities.
Older adults account for 25% of physician office visits in the United States and often have multiple morbidities and disabilities. Thirteen million older adults may have trouble accessing telemedical services; a disproportionate number of those may be among the already disadvantaged. Telephone visits may improve access for the estimated 6.3 million older adults who are inexperienced with technology or have visual impairment, but phone visits are suboptimal for care that requires visual assessment.
[We have] concerns about the rush to make telehealth changes permanent, without addressing a range of underlying issues. In particular, we note growing concerns that current telehealth practices may increase health care and access disparities.
While we recognize that the expansion of Medicare-covered telehealth services has helped many beneficiaries reduce risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus by receiving care while staying home, the Center for Medicare Advocacy has concerns about premature expansion of telehealth services. The Center, together with Medicare Rights Center, recently released principles to help guide policymakers when assessing Medicare coverage for telehealth.
Of particular concern is that expansions in telehealth services could exacerbate disparities in care, leaving behind underserved communities.