AAN Pushes for Permanent Expansion of Telehealth

Megan Brooks

May 18, 2021

In an updated position statement, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) calls for a permanent expansion of telehealth following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has led to neurology practices dramatically reshaping the delivery of care for their patients," AAN President Orly Avitzur, MD, said in a news release.

"The American Academy of Neurology is asking members of Congress for a permanent expansion of telehealth services to improve safety and access to care and to reduce health care costs for people with neurologic disease," said Avitzur.

The statement was published online May 13 in Neurology.

Telehealth Essential, Effective

The new AAN Telehealth Position Statement updates the 2014 position statement, which called for an expansion of telehealth. The new statement details what neurologists have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 19, 186 neurologists from 47 states will meet virtually with federal lawmakers for the 19th annual AAN Neurology on the Hill conference to discuss the new position statement.

The AAN says the benefits of telehealth for neurologic care includes greater access to expert care, as well as enhanced comfort, convenience, and safety, particularly for people who have problems with mobility and those who do not have time to travel. It also lowers associated costs, decreases time away from work, and reduces stress.

"Telehealth won't replace all in-person neurologic care, but for people with neurologic conditions, it has been shown to complement it," Jaime Hatcher-Martin, MD, PhD, of SOC Telemed, in Reston, Virginia, and an author of the position statement, said in the release.

"It is also important that people have options. In addition to video visits, telehealth visits by phone are essential to ensure access to care for people who either cannot afford or who do not have access to high speed broadband internet," Hatcher-Martin said.

Neurologists attending Neurology on the Hill will ask lawmakers to co-sponsor the Telehealth Modernization Act or the CONNECT for Health Act to maintain access to telehealth for people with neurologic conditions.

"Prior to the pandemic, telehealth programs were restricted, mostly available only to people in rural areas or a limited number of specified locations who did not otherwise have access to specialized care, or in small pockets of contracted services, often outside of Medicare or other insurance coverage," Bruce H. Cohen, MD, chair of the AAN Advocacy Committee, said in the news release.

"Neurologists have been asking for an expansion of telehealth for many years. Now it is clear, telehealth is an essential and effective method of delivering care. This has only been possible due to the policy flexibilities enacted by the federal government, along with the broad interpretation of these provisions by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and with cooperation from the states and commercial payers," Cohen said.

"It is important to neurologists and their patients that after the pandemic telehealth continues to play an essential role in medical care," Cohen added.

Neurology. Published online May 13, 2021. Abstract

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