Telehealth has been a way to reach individuals who would otherwise have gone without health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also enabled the most vulnerable to remain connected to their service providers.
Telehealth has an important role in expanding health care access, particularly for marginalized populations. With so many possible barriers to health care, telehealth is beginning to break down those barriers. Matt Stanton, Executive Director of Information Technology at the Cleveland Clinic states that, “By delivering telehealth options for patients directly into their homes onto devices that many patients already have available to them, we are seeing gains in reaching many populations with high levels of satisfaction.”
One reason so many Americans have had the benefit of telehealth is because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services granted coverage of telehealth services for the duration of the pandemic. This applied to certain audiology and speech-language pathology services as well. Almost all state Medicaid programs and many private insurers approved coverage as well.
A. Lynn Williams, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, president of the American-Speech-Hearing-Language Association, believes that telehealth has been so successful for speech therapy that it should be “permanently covered by a wide range of public and private insurers so that it becomes much more accessible to the public.” She explains that “telehealth has become more fully understood as a safe, effective way for providers and patients to deliver and receive care.”
Telehealth is powerful because in addition to reaching individuals in rural areas, those who are immunocompromised, or those for whom transportation is physically challenging or limited, people truly like telehealth. Studies have shown that “more than 90 percent of patients who received any kind of telehealth services, including with speech-language pathologists, described the experience as either “excellent” or “very good.”
Hopefully, medical insurers will establish permanent coverage and telehealth will be here to stay.
Learn more about expansion of telehealth as an essential medical tool in this article from The Hill.
Has your child utilized telehealth for speech therapy during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, please share your experiences in the comments below.