COVID-19 is affecting everything. Whether it’s sports or music, politics or education, the deadly pandemic has interrupted routines, affected business and functionally altered the world.

So it should come as no surprise that the pandemic is changing things in the healthcare sector, including some of the regulations in place around virtual doctor visits, according to today’s podcast guest, Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel for Connected Health Initiative.

“So far the Health and Human Services department – through its Medicare and Medicaid centers primarily but also some other parts – has expanded the use of Telehealth, that is live voice and video and loosened some of the requirements around it, they’ve reinforced that there are some other billing codes that can be used for virtual visits,” he said.

“They’ve also, for example, removed some rather outdated and onerous fraud and abuse checks, I think, that were put into place as far back as the 1990s, for the purposes of this crisis.”

Advances in medical technology can go far beyond simply allowing for remote doctor visits or letting patients use FaceTime or Skype, however. Scarpelli noted that biometric-monitoring tactics are among other advances still being rolled out that could be helpful to caregivers during this pandemic.

That said, he also cautioned against thinking a revolution will happen over night.

“In many other sectors – and some in the health-care sector say it and I take issue with it – that somebody is going to “Uber-ize” health. Somebody’s going to just go in and break things and disrupt and deal with all the regulations later,” he said. “That’s not going to happen in the health-care sector.

“There’s just far too much of an established framework and ecosystem for the delivery of health today, and the fact that the largest payer in America is the government in the form of the Medicare system makes its influence undeniable. In some ways the Medicare system has led the private sector.”

Those cases show that it’s not so much where the advance is coming from but what’s being improved when it comes to health care. Surely we soon will be seeing even more steps forward.

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