Patients and doctors are turning to telehealth, but what is it?
(CNN)The coronavirus pandemic has opened the door for Medicare patients to have access to telehealth, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Tuesday. But what is that, exactly?Telehealth connects patients to healthcare providers through videoconferencing, electronic consultations and virtual communications, in lieu of in-person consultations, according to the American Hospital Association. In 2019, 76% of US hospitals used the technology.During the coronavirus outbreak, patients seeking medical assistance through telehealth will reduce the strain on doctors’ time and resources as the number of cases continues to climb, said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Additionally, when patients communicate with their doctors on their phones and computers for screenings and regular checkups for chronic conditions, they can avoid potentially spreading illness by coming into an office or hospital.While telehealth was in practice before the pandemic, increasing need has increased accessibility.Medicare patients were limited in their coverage when they used telehealth and would previously only receive coverage for routine services in certain circumstances, such as if they lived in a remote location, CMS said in a release Tuesday. But the Trump administration announced Tuesday that Medicare would temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services to its patients including mental health counseling, common office