ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) is urging support for legislation that would increase access to telehealth for Minnesotans and make permanent some of the temporary advances that occurred during COVID-19.
While previous law required patients to go to a health care provider site to access telehealth, Senate File (SF) 1160/House File (HF) 1412, authored by Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Kelly Morrison, would continue to allow providers to deliver telehealth services directly to a patient’s home setting via audio-only telephone calls, or via secure two-way audio-video services on a tablet or computer. The legislation would allow scheduled visits to be conducted by telephone when a patient does not have access to internet or the appropriate electronic device at their location. These care delivery practices are currently in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telehealth use in Minnesota increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals and health systems worked to prevent the spread of COVID and protect health care workers. Patients deferred needed care to avoid potential exposure to COVID in clinics.
“Allowing a home setting to serve as an originating site has become a crucial option for patients to receive high-quality services that prevent the worsening of chronic health issues and reduce potentially avoidable ER visits – all without risking infection or utilizing bed capacity and other medical resources,” said Dr. Sarah Manney, chief medical information officer, Essentia Health, during testimony on behalf of MHA before the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee on Feb. 22.
The legislation advanced in the Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Finance Committee this week and will have a hearing on Feb. 26 in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.
“Hospitals, health systems and health care providers are seeing clear evidence that increased access to telehealth is patient-centered care,” said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO, MHA. “Allowing patients to access telehealth from their own home setting without the need to travel removes a barrier to getting needed health care and enhances equity within our statewide system of care. Telehealth also makes it easier for patients to receive needed care from specialists – including mental health providers – who may be located in distant parts of the state.”
Because of the pandemic, the state and federal government temporarily removed a number of regulatory barriers to telehealth. Health care providers report that this recent extensive adoption of telehealth has resulted in:
- Improved attendance at appointments, with fewer no-shows, particularly for mental health visits.
- Easier access for people who lack transportation or where weather impacts transportation.
- The delivery of health care that might have been deferred because of concerns over exposure to COVID-19.
- The ability for some providers to treat more people by delivering services from their own homes because of the pandemic or by reducing drive time between health care sites.
“The pandemic accelerated the adoption and practice of telehealth in all aspects of care delivery,” Koranne said. “And that is a wonderful thing in service of our patients and communities across the state. We are urging legislators and the federal and state government to make permanent the changes that were allowed during the pandemic.”
The Minnesota Hospital Association represents Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems, which provide quality care for their patients and meet the needs of their communities.
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