This recent Wall Street Journal article may have hit the nail on the head. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, insurance companies and state & federal regulators really reduced the requirements surrounding telehealth. This allowed patients who were sick or in need of prevention-related care from their primary care doctors or specialists to reach the doctor without going in for a visit. Care was able to continue for many things that did not have an essential in-person component and patients were happy to continue to receive what they needed in a trying time.
As we all know, the pandemic seems far from over. With variable data coming out about the newest variant - omicron - uncertainty looms. This has caused many patients to remain concerned about going out to medical facilities for routine care. Many patients push off screening tests and visits because they worry that being out and about increases their risks of being infected with COVID-19.
The rollbacks of telehealth coverage are not helping. If you have asthma, and your lung doctor wants you to come in (because insurance is no longer paying them if they do a phone visit), and you don’t want to go in for safety and health related reasons, you may run out of your asthma meds and get much sicker from that alone. This concept can be repeated for thyroid medications from your endocrinologist, antibiotics for your skin infection, and on and on.
At Direct Doctors (and at other DPC practices across the country), we have provided remote care before, during, and certainly will continue to do so after the pandemic is over. Our practice model is based on the ability to care for patients in ways that insurance companies often do not support. By eliminating the insurance middle men, patients can contact their doctor directly (by text, cell phone call, email, or patient portal) whenever and however it suits them best. Of course, certain things still need office visits, but many do not require them clinically. If you are sick of dictations by insurance about how you can reach your doctor and as rollbacks of these telehealth coverage allowances continue, you may find it is time for something more convenient and more reliable. Check us out at www.directdoctor.org to find out more about how we practice primary care differently.
Lauren Hedde, DO; James Hedde, DO and Mark Turshen, MD are Family Physicians and Co- Founders of Direct Doctors, Inc. a Direct Primary Care Practice.