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Virtual care at a virtual conference: Telehealth will remain post-pandemic, experts say at AHIP

June 19, 2020 / Rebecca Pifer

The COVID-19 pandemic will keep driving telehealth adoption, but use will likely ebb from its current unprecedented levels, experts and officials said this week during America's Health Insurance Plans' virtual annual conference. "If I were trying to be controversial, of course I'd say, 'No, it's going to go away.' But of course no one believes that," said Karen DeSalvo, chief medical officer at Google Health and a health official during the Obama administration. "I think we'll land somewhere in between" pre-pandemic and current use, she said. Before the COVID-19 crisis, telehealth was used mainly for behavioral and urgent care, with a focus in rural and underserved areas. But as patients looked for ways to receive healthcare without fear of contracting the coronavirus, use has snowballed. Adoption has increased exponentially since March when the Trump administration temporarily rolled back myriad restrictions to telehealth access, including expanding fee-for-service Medicare coverage, waiving geographic restrictions and authorizing reimbursement for audio-only visits.