Rural Matters, a podcast featuring issues important to Rural America, recently spoke to Carrie Zbierski, Chief Nursing Officer at North Texas Medical Center; Andra Smith, Director of Practice Management at North Texas Medical Center; and Brian Doerr, Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Security, and Privacy Officer for Community Hospital Corporation of Plano, Texas about the evolving telemedicine presence in rural America and its capability to deliver specialty health services.
Before the pandemic, Doerr notes, rural areas accesses telemedicine in a limited way, due to regulatory and reimbursement restrictions and lack of flexibility. But those barriers are being relaxed now, says Doerr. For example, he explains, remote telehealth visits by rural hospitals can be reimbursed by CMS or other payers, including commercial payers, who are moving cautiously in this area. Doerr expects continuing growth in this area, even after COVID-19.
Zbierski says that more hospitals are interested in the use of telemedicine access specialty care providers, such as cardiologists and pulmonologists, to treat patients without them having to come into hospitals. Smith notes that because patients within her clinics are now learning how to use this new technology, their care management can become more than just annual visits. This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in the challenges and opportunities of telehealth and its incredibly dramatic use in rural areas.