Policy and Advocacy for improving Health Care
When politics and medical science intersect, there can be much debate. Sometimes anecdotes or hearsay are misused as evidence to support a particular point. Despite these and other challenges, however, evidence-based approaches are increasingly used to inform health policy decision-making regarding causes of disease, intervention strategies, and issues impacting society. One example is the introduction of childhood vaccinations and the use of evidence-based arguments surrounding their safety.
In this Discussion, you will identify a recently proposed health policy and share your analysis of the evidence in support of this policy.
Review the Congress website provided in the Resources and identify one recent (within the past 5 years) proposed health policy.
Review the health policy you identified and reflect on the background and development of this health policy.
Post a description of the health policy you selected and a brief background for the problem or issue being addressed. Explain whether you believe there is an evidence base to support the proposed policy and explain why. Be specific and provide examples.
H.R.5425 — H.R.5425 – Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act
Telehealth involves the delivery of healthcare, health information services, and health education through remote technologies. The use of information technology in healthcare has contributed to numerous developments, including using key tools for patient-physician or nurse communication, thus reducing physical patient encounters. The use of telehealth has been legalized in the United States, with healthcare providers being reimbursed for delivering telehealthcare. This paper discusses the “H.R.5425 — H.R.5425 – Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act,” which was introduced to Congress in 2021.
The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act was introduced to Congress to remove the barriers put the rural patients in accessing telehealth services. Currently, the access to telehealth for patients in rural areas is restricted to various access conditions. People receiving telehealth services from rural areas should move out of their homes and access the services from telehealth clinics or nearby healthcare facilities (Sodhi, 2021). The patients are required to be within some geographic locations, and thus those out of the geographic areas are required to travel to the specific sites. The patients are required to use particular audio and video telecommunication systems. The bill was structured after the COVID-19 pandemic that disallowed movement in efforts to contain the spread of the viral disease. At the height of COVID-19 disease, telehealth was the key tool for facilitating healthcare for patients away from the healthcare facilities. The rural populations were affected by the restrictions that denied them access to healthcare from their homes. Since the cessation of movement calls would not allow movement to the clinics for non-critical illnesses, the rural patients were at a disadvantage until the restrictions were temporarily removed to accommodate the rural population. The bill thus seeks to remove the geographic restrictions on the originating sites of the beneficiaries, whether local or urban. Secondly, the bill seeks to allow the beneficiaries’ homes to serve as the originating sites of the services, meaning that rural patients can access telehealth services from their homes (Congress, 2021). Thirdly, through the bill, federally qualified clinics in rural areas will be allowed to serve as the location of the healthcare practitioner. Fourthly, the bill seeks to remove the mandatory video coverage for evaluation by allowing audio-only evaluation.
I believe that there is an evidence base for this bill in removing restrictions on telehealth services in rural areas. One of the key concerns is access to healthcare services by the rural population. According to a cross-sectional study by Chu et al. (2021), telemedicine visits increased from 7 out of 1000 in 2019 to 147 out of 1000 in 2020 during the COVID-19 and after the restrictions were frozen. This shows that the removal of telehealth restrictions to the rural populations would encourage access to healthcare, consequently reducing the levels of chronicity and improving the quality of health for the rural population. The telehealth expansion for the rural populations may reduce the healthcare disparities in the United States. Currently, telehealth’s urban populations are prioritized, thus creating healthcare disparities based on economic, geographic, and social boundaries. According to Myers (2018), telehealth plays a critical role in revolutionizing the healthcare system by reducing numerous barriers that prevent equal access to healthcare. This shows that giving every person equal opportunity to telehealth would increase general access to healthcare regardless of race, geographical location, and social status. Allowing local clinics to conduct telehealth services would increase the number of healthcare providers providing telehealth services, thus increasing healthcare access.
In conclusion, telehealth is an important technology that reduces the cost of care by limiting the distance of travel to the care centers for in-person healthcare. The telehealth restrictions to the rural communities limited their access to healthcare, which increased the levels of disease chronicity in the rural areas, thus the poor quality of health. The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act would thus effectively reduce the barriers and increase access to healthcare in improving the quality of health and healthcare disparities in the United States.
Chu, C., Cram, P., Pang, A., Stamenova, V., Tadrous, M., & Bhatia, R. S. (2021). Rural Telemedicine Use Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Repeated Cross-sectional Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(4), e26960. https://doi.org/10.2196/26960
Congress. (2021). H.R.5425 – 117th Congress (2021–2022): Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act. Congress.Gov | Library of Congress. https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/5425?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22nursing%22%2C%22nursing%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=416
Myers, C. R. (2018). Using Telehealth to Remediate Rural Mental Health and Healthcare Disparities. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 40(3), 233–239. https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840.2018.1499157
Sodhi, M. (2021). Telehealth Policies Impacting Federally Qualified Health Centers in the face of COVID‐19. The Journal of Rural Health, 37(1), 158–160. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12445