COVID-19 has changed the delivery of healthcare and some of these developments, such as telehealth and telemedicine, are likely to be lasting, according to hospital, insurance and pharmaceutical executives who participated in a panel discussion at NJBIA’s recent Public Policy Forum.
“In some ways, COVID has dragged our fragmented antiquated healthcare system kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” said John Hoffman, the head of Health Policy and Advocacy at Janssen US, a pharmaceutical company owned by Johnson & Johnson.
“We want to make sure that we keep the things that are working – whether that’s telemedicine, whether it’s 90-day prescription refills, whether it’s reducing or eliminating co-pays. Because our concern… was what we saw for chronic patients, a disruption in care that obviously has long-term consequences.”
Allen Karp, executive vice president of Healthcare Management and Transformation at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, said the use of telehealth and telemedicine increased from 5% to 60% during the peak of the pandemic after the insurer expanded its coverage for those services.
“When we were in a shutdown period in the early spring physicians who were under a fee for service payment system – meaning if they didn’t see a patient, they didn’t get paid – were really hurting,” Karp said. “So, we expanded our telehealth and telemedicine coverage and that was a big relief for a lot of our primary care physicians who were able to still see their patients.”
Hoffman said some medical specialties, such a primary care or psychiatry, are a particularly good fit for greater utilization of telemedicine going forward because of the need to make sure patients’ prescription supplies are not interrupted.
“Perhaps those should be higher, at a telemedicine level, to create more bandwidth in the system, quite frankly,” Hoffman said “Especially as you see the demographics of our population age, we’re going to need that bandwidth.”
Cathleen Bennett, the CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many New Jersey residents were delaying care for other conditions or chronic illnesses. People who were experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke were afraid to go to a hospital for fear of COVID-19.
“At least with telehealth and telemed, for chronic conditions or pre-conditions, there’s an ability to connect with a provider and be directed to the right site for care,” Bennett said.
Go here to watch a recording of the Dec. 1 panel discussion, which was moderated by NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas.