AMA adopts new telehealth policy

The five-day policy-making meeting of the American Medical Association concluded business yesterday after virtually gathering physicians and medical students from all corners of the nation to shape the AMA's health care agenda.

One important item of business for delegates was the future of telemedicine. Delegates adopted policy directing the AMA to continue it advocacy work with legislators and regulators who have an important opportunity to codify coverage, access and payment policies that support telehealth advancements throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The new AMA policy states:

RESOLVED, That our AMA continue to advocate for the widespread adoption of telehealth services in the practice of medicine for physicians and physician-led teams post SARS-COV-2); and be it further

RESOLVED, That our AMA advocate that the Federal government, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other agencies, state governments and state agencies, and the health insurance industry, adopt clear and uniform laws, rules, regulations, and policies relating to telehealth services that:

  1. provide equitable coverage that allows patients to access telehealth services wherever they are located;

  2. provide for the use of accessible devices and technologies, with appropriate privacy and security protections, for connecting physicians and patients (New HOD Policy); and be it further;RESOLVED, That our AMA advocate for equitable access to telehealth services, especially for at-risk and under-resourced patient populations and communities, including but not limited to supporting increased funding and planning for telehealth infrastructure such as broadband and internet-connected devices for both physician practices and patients.

RESOLVED, that our AMA support the use of telehealth to reduce health disparities and promote access to health care.

The adoption of the AMA's new telehealth policy coincides with the appearance of a new physician survey on telehealth issued by the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition. The survey's topline findings show strong support for telehealth:

  • 60% reported that telehealth has improved the health of their patients.
  • 68% report they're motivated to increase telehealth use in their practices.
  • 11% said they were using remote patient monitoring technologies with patients in their homes. Commonly used tools included smartphones, blood pressure cuffs, body weight scales, and pulse oximeters.
  • 55% indicated that telehealth has improved the satisfaction of their work.
  • More than 80% of respondents indicated that telehealth improved the timeliness of care for their patients. A similar percentage said that their patients have reacted favorably to using telehealth for care.

The survey also found barriers and challenges still exist and/or are anticipated beyond the pandemic.

  • 73.3% indicated that no or low reimbursement will be a major challenge post-COVID.
  • More than 64% said technology challenges for patients were a barrier to the sustainable use of telehealth.
  • 58% are not able to currently access their telehealth technology directly from their electronic health records