Lessons learned the hard way

Virtual visits, expanding healthcare, and 5 links worth your time

Yesterday, I scheduled two appointments that were long overdue, one with my dentist and one with my doctor. These appointments were scheduled for early 2020 but postponed because of COVID lockdowns.  

They were just checkups and, while it’s possible I’ll find that it was costly to put them off, odds are good that the delay won’t have had a huge impact on my general health. I didn’t stop brushing or flossing, after all. 

Some things can’t wait

In this, however, I am fortunate. I don’t have physical or mental health conditions that require regular treatment, but several members of my family do. I also know many people whose health declined during (or because of) the isolation of the past year.  

None of these people had the luxury of delaying appointments. Some couldn’t wait a few weeks, let alone an entire year, to receive care. 

Non-COVID medical conditions didn’t disappear because the healthcare sector was strained by the needs of coronavirus patients. When doctors and patients couldn’t even be in the same room together, one solution to this challenge came, as it also did in education, from technology. Doctors and patients turned to telehealth to communicate with one another.  

Medical restrictions

Healthcare under normal circumstances is one of the most contentious policy issues of the day. However, the policies adapted in the face of the pandemic have largely been welcomed by both the left and the right, and both want the policies to remain in place post-pandemic. 

Prior to the pandemic, there were many regulations and challenges restricting doctors and other healthcare providers from serving their patients online prior to the pandemic. In most cases, for example, healthcare providers were not legally allowed to treat patients across state lines because of licensing restrictions. Doctors couldn’t write prescriptions based on telehealth visits. Medicare and Medicaid limited or did not allow reimbursements to providers for phone or online visits. Privacy laws forbid healthcare providers from using FaceTime or Zoom to offer care. 

But faced with the physical restrictions of lockdowns, federal and state regulations were quickly waived to allow patients to get the care they needed from their doctors and other care providers.   

Changes we should make permanent

One of my children is still attending her classes online, every other week, because of the pandemic. We’re all ready for that adaptation to COVID to end because virtual learning is a struggle for her. 

We shouldn’t be so quick, however, to say goodbye every innovation brought about by the pandemic. This week on the Civil Squared podcast, I talked to Courtney Joslin, a policy analyst who has considered the impact of improved telehealth options, waived regulations, and solutions that mean more people can access healthcare more easily.

Healthcare is one of those subjects that can cause a lot of disagreement and division, but in our five links this week, you’ll find agreement from both the left and the right about the need to make these changes permanent. We hope you’ll take the opportunity to think about and discuss what other issues exist where common ground is possible. 

5 links worth your time

  1. Why did it take a pandemic to spur long-overdue changes in healthcare practices? 
  2. Here are three ways the pandemic has made the world better. 
  3. Can state lawmakers please not wait for the next crisis before enacting some necessary reforms? 
  4. Let’s just keep improving telehealthcare options! 
  5. There appears to be genuine hope for overcoming partisan and ideological division and enacting positive changes in healthcare.

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