By Terri Jo Neff |
Arizona jumped to the national forefront of telehealth in May 2021 when Gov. Doug Ducey signed emergency legislation that dramatically expanded options for accessing safe and reliable health care services.
“Our state now has the broadest telemedicine law in the nation, providing greater opportunity for safe and reliable medical services,” Ducey’s office noted Wednesday in a “2021 Year in Review” statement. “Expansive telehealth helps all Arizonans, especially low-income families and those living in rural areas, connect with their medical providers.”
Telehealth or telemedicine is the use of digital technology -devices such as computers, telephones, smartphones, and tablets- to access health care services without needing to be in the same room or even the same state as the medical provider.
In May 2020, the health care consulting firm McKinsey & Company noted the total annual revenue of U.S. telehealth players was an estimated $3 billion prior to COVID-19. That U.S. revenue stream could jump in a post-pandemic market to $250 billion as health care services continue to shift to a telehealth platform, or what they refer to as virtual or virtually-enabled care.
A July 2021 updated report by McKinsey & Company noted the utilization of virtual care services is now 38 times higher than before COVID-19. This change has been driven by an increased willingness of consumers / patients to embrace telehealth, as well as an increased willingness of providers to offer such services.
And as seen in Arizona, another key factor in the growth of telehealth is the regulatory and statutory changes, which enable greater access and reimbursement.
“Patients and medical professionals know what’s best for their needs, and we’re working to make sure they have access to those services,” Ducey said when signing the legislation in the spring.
The governor pointed at the time to the benefits for vulnerable populations and the fact snowbirds visiting Arizona could receive telemedicine from their home state due to Arizona’s new law. In addition, doctors are assured equal compensation from insurance companies for telemedicine services.
Meanwhile, McKinsey & Company noted in July that investor activity continues to grow at record levels.
“Investment in virtual health continues to accelerate,” the firm noted in its July update, adding that total venture capital investment into the digital health space in the first half of 2021 totaled $14.7 billion. That is more than all of the investment in 2020 ($14.6 billion) and nearly twice the investment in 2019 ($7.7 billion), the update noted.
The University of Arizona’s College of Medicine operates the Arizona Telemedicine and Telehealth Center. It provides telemedicine services, distance learning, informatics training, and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities to communities throughout Arizona.
On Feb. 7, the UA Telemedicine Center is offering a free webinar for medical professionals interested in adding telehealth services to their practice. More information about the “Developing a Telemedicine Program” webinar can be found at https://telemedicine.arizona.edu/training/developing-telemedicine-program/webinar/2022-02-07