Sen. Ron Wyden: COVID-19 meant no more 'dawdling' on telehealth

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told Healthcare IT News in a recent video that the COVID-19 crisis made clear how important it is to support telehealth with a sustained national strategy. 

“The pandemic presented many challenges, but one of the real pluses was there was a chance to marshal professionals and innovators to really step up and deal with the kind of crisis the country had never seen,” said Wyden for Telehealth Connection TV, a new series from HIMSS TV.

Telemedicine, said Wyden, highlights what meeting those challenges is all about.

Wyden has been at the forefront of pushing to expand access to virtual care even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2017, he worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to expand telehealth coverage under Medicare via the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act, or CHRONIC Act.

“Medicare in the future will mostly be about dealing with chronic illness,” said Wyden. “We have a major section on telemedicine [in the law] because we envisioned: Here was a place to put a stake in the ground and say ‘We’re going to make sure telemedicine plays a bigger role in Medicare.'”

“When the pandemic struck, and in-person visits became either impossible or an enormous lift, essentially Democrats and Republicans said, ‘We’ve got to move now. There can’t be any more dawdling,'” said Wyden.

Wyden pointed to mental and behavioral health services as a particularly important opportunity for virtual care.

“I want to zero in on expanding telemedicine’s role in Medicare, because we know that’s a flagship health program … and when you get it there, almost always, you have an opportunity to have it replicated in the private sector,” he said.

Watch more of Sen. Wyden’s comments on Telehealth Connection TV, a new series from HIMSS TV:

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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