Telemedicine enables convenient timely patient access to established physicians or new consultations
and has proven its value as a method of health care delivery. As the service has become readily available through health plans and employers as a way to facilitate physical distancing and reduce exposure and disease transmission in the COVID era, patients now expect more from their own physicians. Many patients find telehealth equally or more preferable to in-person visits, as they can minimize lost work time, avoid transportation costs and hassles, and have more flexibility to involve family members or caregivers in their health care encounters. The ASGE recognizes continuation of policies to promote telehealth will improve and enhance access to health care during and after the COVID era.
The ASGE will support and advocate for proposals that:
- Continue to support clinically appropriate care via telehealth by qualified health care professionals in the future, for both initial and established patient visits, recognizing that telehealth will be an essential part of patient care even after the COVID era.
- Maintain maximum flexibility in the use of telemedicine, such as that afforded to health care providers during the public health emergency, so long as the risk of exposure to COVID-19 persists, including allowing physicians and patients the flexibility to choose among easily accessed nonpublic-facing communications platforms, recognizing they may not necessarily be HIPAA compliant, until telehealth platforms can meet HIPAA protections.
- Establish reimbursements for virtual and audio-only consultations at parity with in-person visits, in recognition of the expense, expertise, and effort required in providing telehealth services.
- Preserve a health care provider’s ability to determine if a clinical situation is appropriate for telehealth.
- Improve access to telehealth for patients across diverse settings and geographic areas, including addressing disparities that may limit the ability to access or utilize telehealth.To the extent infrastructure or patient ability to utilize simple smart-phone audio-visual links is not feasible, this includes the recognition of telephone-only (audio-only) services as equivalent to video visits.
- Expand the use of telehealth to facilitate improved communication and clinical care in areas outside of direct outpatient care, such as provider-to-provider communication, coordination of patient care, and virtual consults.
- Provide liberalization for health care professionals to perform services across state lines, as long as physicians meet specific licensure requirements and conditions.
Approved by ASGE Governing Board July 2020