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Nevada, three other states join forces to address remote healthcare

Four of the five states already working together in the “Western States Pact” formed to address the response to the COVID-19 pandemic are striking out on a new collective endeavor, with Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Colorado all announcing that they will now be coordinating on telehealth.

A service that has seen a sharp increase in popularity since the onset of COVID-19, telehealth is a remote option for those seeking medical care. It allows a patient to set up an appointment with a health care professional and discuss their medical concerns in a virtual format. While there may be some debate and disagreement about exactly how far telehealth should go, there is no denying that the option is now an engrained part of society, leaving states and the federal government both eyeing regulations for what has become an essential part of the American health care system.

“The coronavirus pandemic has heightened the demand for telehealth services nationally, and in our states,” a joint statement from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis read. “With patients reluctant to seek in-person care due to exposure risk and transportation access issues, telehealth has offered a way for patients to connect with health providers while mitigating exposure risk. It has also highlighted some of the inequities of our health care systems.”

The announcement goes on to explain that during the pandemic, states have sought flexibility in their authority to expand which health services are available through telehealth and to change payment policies for such services, flexibility that the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently indicated will be made permanent.

“Telehealth is here to stay,” the announcement emphasized.

The news release states that Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Colorado are all quite familiar with telehealth, both individually and collectively, and as such, they believe this new partnership will provide a positive benefit to not just their own states but to the country as a whole.

“To ensure that the nation benefits from our knowledge as changes to federal regulations are contemplated, to support continued application and availability of telehealth in our states and to ensure that we address the inequities faced in particular by tribal communities and communities of color, we are announcing that Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together to identify best practices that support telehealth services for residents of our states. We will have individual state-driven approaches to implementing telehealth policies, but our work will be guided by seven overarching principles.”

The seven principles include access, confidentiality, equity, standard of care, stewardship, patient choice and payment/reimbursement.

“We intend to work with our federal partners on telehealth and invite them to committee to a similar coordinated and principle-driven approach,” the news release concluded.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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