AHA, Johns Hopkins, Athenahealth, others launch campaign to make telehealth permanent

Sixteen organizations launched a public education campaign to protect access to telehealth called Telehealth Access for America.

The members include the American Hospital Association (AHA), Johns Hopkins Medicine, Athenahealth, AARP and Ascension. 

“Access to telehealth is vital to Americans’ well-being and quality of life,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a press release. “Without action from Congress, millions of Americans who have come to rely on telehealth services will lose access to the care they value.” 

The initiative advocates for telehealth because of its ability to promote better health outcomes, higher quality of life, health equity, patient empowerment and lower costs. (Earlier this year, though, a study found that patients’ openness to telehealth slipped when presented with a potential cost increase.) 

Nevertheless, telehealth access is under threat as the temporary lift on the usual restrictions is set to end in January. The public health emergency order that allows for the exemption was already renewed six times by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

RELATED: HHS: Telehealth use in Medicare increased 63-fold last year with behavioral health increasing the most

"Telehealth is transformative for many patients who face barriers to accessing in-person services. We saw its promise during the pandemic and learned how critical it is to the future of healthcare delivery. Our members strongly support Congressional action on telehealth to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare when and where they need it," Jen Covich Bordenick, CEO at Executives for Health Innovation.

The campaign also released survey results further supporting patient interest in telemedicine. Two-thirds (66%) of U.S. voters have a positive opinion of telehealth compared with 14% with a negative view, the survey results show. By a margin greater than two to one, voters believe the availability of telehealth services “improves overall health care quality.”

Nearly 3 in 5 voters (61%) say they have utilized telehealth services in the past 12 months.

“Without action from Congress, millions of people will lose access to the care they value, such as mental health care, prescription drugs, and more,” Telehealth Access for America’s website states. Making remote care access permanent is key, the initiative argues. Its site references numerous studies showing the benefits of telehealth to patients.