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An Open Letter from the American Board of Telehealth to Xavier Becerra, Nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Congratulations on your nomination to serve as our nation’s next Secretary of Health and Human Services.  During your confirmation hearing, we urge you to emphasize the vital role high-quality and consistently-practiced telemedicine plays in improving health care for Americans 

The United States’ journey to quality, standards-based health services that can be delivered in both in-person and telehealth settings requires alignment among all stakeholders.  Providers, payers, patients, digital health technology companies, think tanks, and policymakers must work collaboratively to effect the transformational promise of telehealth. 

That alignment, Mr. Becerra, became vividly real during 2020 with the dramatic increase in the use of telemedicine to serve more patients with timely care in response to Covid-19.

Of 63 million Medicare beneficiaries and enrollees, nearly 40% (24.5 million) received a Medicare telemedicine service between mid-March and mid-October 2020. They received those services based on public health emergency approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

We also highlight that, in May 2020, a McKinsey report found:

  • Telehealth use accelerated from use by 11% of US consumers in 2019 to 46%.
  • Health care professionals saw an astonishing increase of 50 to 175 times the number patients via telehealth as before.

The expansion of telehealth services by CMS matters in this equation. Consistent and quality telehealth measures require permanent rather than transitory status. We urge you to make permanent the policies recommended by the American Telemedicine Association.

Further, the American Board of Telehealth, funded by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, introduced its certificate program during this extensive growth in telemedicine specifically to educate practitioners on how to provide telehealth-based patient services safely and of high quality.

Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the ABT’s initial course, CORE Concepts in Telehealth, teaches learners how to implement and operate a high-quality and consistently-implemented telehealth program. Our curriculum is expanding with courses on primary care and behavioral health, now under development.

Our organization’s leaders live our mission, “Through world-class education, we standardize the integration of safe, high-quality, cost-effective, and accessible telehealth into the delivery of care.” In fact, ABT’s goal is “to weave telemedicine into the fabric of health care delivery across the country as a vital tool in promoting access to quality care – no matter where you are.”

Mr. Becerra, we congratulate you on your nomination.  And, we look to you as our next HHS Secretary to lead the effort around an integrated and interoperable health system that provides high-quality, cost-effective care in both in-person and telehealth modalities.