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HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Trump to Sign Boost for Rural Health Care

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Doctors treating patients virtually can provide new services, such as emergency visits, eye exams, and certain mental health visits, after the pandemic subsides under an executive order from President Donald Trump announced yesterday.

As part of the order, the Agriculture Department and Federal Communications Commission are partnering to bolster broadband access to rural communities, boosting telehealth efforts beyond the pandemic.

The telehealth order offers some peace of mind for both doctors and patients. The move increases options for patients in rural areas who might have to drive miles for treatment. It also brings certainty to doctors who feared that some telehealth services allowed under temporary orders would be labeled as fraud when the public health emergency is over.

The pandemic has vastly altered how people access their doctors. About 43% of health centers offered telehealth services in 2018, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Now more than 90% of facilities offer them, “and about half of health center visits during the pandemic have been virtual,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar wrote in an op-ed last week .

Regulators will now have to ensure patients’ data will be secure. Health insurers might also have to reconfigure their payment models for doctors who […]

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