Giving Compass' Take:

• At Rand, Doug Irving discusses how doctors are implementing telemedicine during COVID-19 and whether or not they'll continue using it after the pandemic.

• What are the benefits of telemedicine during COVID-19? What are potential pitfalls? What can you do to support further research on the impact of telemedicine both during and after the coronavirus?

• Learn more about the scale and accessibility of telemedicine during COVID-19.

For years now, RAND researchers have documented telemedicine's potential to make health care more convenient, more accessible, and more efficient.

“I've been to a lot of research conferences, and every year, someone at the podium would say, 'This is the year for telemedicine. It's about to take off,'” said Lori Uscher-Pines, a senior policy researcher and RAND's leading expert on telemedicine.

“But this year,” she added, “COVID-19 has really put it on the map. Telemedicine has exploded.”

Almost from the first stay-at-home orders, Medicare and other big payers relaxed their rules to make it easier for patients to connect to care. They allowed more people—urban or rural—to consult with doctors, from home, using apps like FaceTime or Zoom.

At UC Davis Health, the psychiatrists working with Peter Yellowlees needed just three days to move all of their appointments to phone or video.

More than half had never tried telemedicine before the coronavirus forced them to work from home. There were bumps along the way—offscreen distractions, privacy concerns, difficulties reading a patient's nonverbal cues. But a majority said the transition went more smoothly than they expected.

That didn't mean they wanted to work from home forever. Without permanent changes to the reimbursement rules, they weren't sure they could make telemedicine a permanent part of their practice.

“We're already seeing some evidence that providers are moving away from telemedicine now that things are opening up,” Uscher-Pines said. “A lot of them are waiting to see what happens with those temporary changes in policy. That will really drive utilization going forward.”

Those policy decisions could have an especially big impact in communities not well served by traditional health care.

Read the full article about telemedicine during COVID-19 by Doug Irving at Rand.