We are at the Sunrise of 2021
We now are in our third week of the New Year, and our tenth month of social distancing and following various state mandates. Soon, we will have completed a full year of the virtual trade show cycle. Will events — and life — go back to the way it was, or has a “new normal” been created? In this issue’s Parting Thoughts column, Contributing Editor Jef Williams discusses the changes we have experienced that caused a radical shift and set the stage for redefining what is possible moving forward.
Take for instance telehealth. Historically, its adoption has been slow. But when patients and physicians found out how convenient it could be, we saw that original resistance start to shift. As Williams states in his column, “It often takes significant force to exact change.” In December, I had the opportunity to discuss telehealth with Eric Liederman, M.D., M.Ph., director of medical informatics for The Permanente Medical Group, in Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Region. He shared that a major change in telehealth occurred last March when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a waiver that temporarily allowed reimbursement for video and telephone visits on a fee-for-service basis. CMS also issued a statement of forbearance of prosecutions around HIPAA violations, surrounding use of non-commercial grade, non-healthcare grade modalities for video care.
“So, they basically said we’ll pay you and you can essentially use any means that you want to do video care, such as using FaceTime or Zoom,” explained Liederman. “Before that, there was very little video care going on and telephone care was generally limited to follow-ups after scheduled visits or test results. With COVID, the use of telephone and video visits grew exponentially because we needed a way to continue to care for our patients in a safe and effective way.” You can read the full interview with Dr. Liederman here.
There is light on the horizon for moving forward in 2021. CNN reported that more than 9 million Americans have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, yet more than 27 million doses have been distributed as of Jan. 13, according to the CDC. Also on Jan. 13, the Trump administration reversed course on its vaccine policy, and instructed states to begin vaccinating all Americans 65 and older, and release the second doses in reserve to make the vaccine more widely administered. While good in theory, this also runs the risk of depleting resources that are necessary for full vaccination. Both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines require two rounds of injection. COVID’s current toll at press time: 22,848,707 U.S. cases reported, 380,821 U.S. deaths.
It’s now time to apply lessons learned from 2020 in order to move forward into 2021.