The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be the single biggest disruptor mankind has experienced in over a century. It has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of many. It has threatened the very core of what makes us human; our ability to connect and interact with one another. It has also challenged us to find creative solutions, overcome barriers, and transform the very way we function in a world that has changed forever. The Healthcare industry was most significantly impacted by the pandemic and the pediatric healthcare space was no exception.
Telemedicine proved to be a Godsend in these tumultuous times. While the technology for telemedicine was in existence for over a decade prior to the pandemic it was never widely adopted. One of the major barriers to widespread telemedicine use was the lack of reimbursement by payors. There was also an overall sense of inertia or skepticism from the medical community. Medical malpractice and concerns for HIPAA security also loomed over this novel approach to healthcare. In all reality, telemedicine was in need of a hero and the pandemic proved to be one. When CMS enacted the telemedicine waivers and enforced equal payment for telemedicine services (in early March of 2020) the number of telemedicine encounters recorded increased by over 150 percent just in a short span of three weeks. This trend only continued with over a billion telehealth visits recorded in the US in 2020 alone.
At Nicklaus Children’s Health System, we saw a staggering 3000 percent increase in telehealth visits during 2020. We rolled out telemedicine to all our primary care and subspecialty practices very rapidly to guarantee our children could see their specialists without skipping a beat.