(March 5, 2021) – Kansas hospitals have long viewed telemedicine as an invaluable tool to maintain and increase access to health care services throughout the state. At no time has the importance of telemedicine been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries in the country accessed telehealth services between March and October of 2020 – 24.5 million Americans. In Kansas, it is reported approximately 48 percent of Kansans used telemedicine during the pandemic. Most recently, a study requested by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, in collaboration with the University of Kansas Medical Center, examined the experiences of health care providers offering telemedicine services. Overall, it appears providers and patients have favorably viewed their telemedicine experiences, but there continue to be challenges including difficulty using technology and accessing broadband.
A subsequent public opinion poll funded by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund and REACH confirms the favorable view of telemedicine by Kansans. The poll, conducted by GS Strategy Group, surveyed 800 Kansas voters and indicates 86 percent of Kansans "support expanding or maintaining telehealth options in Kansas." Some of the other topline results of the survey included:
- 85 percent of Kansans believe the ability to see a provider from your home with the platform and device of your choice should continue
- 85 percent of Kansans find telehealth services, like virtual meetings with a health care provider, to be helpful
- 90 percent of rural Kansans believe telehealth must remain an option for patients after the pandemic is over
- 90 percent of Kansans feel expanding broadband access in Kansas would better allow Kansans to access care
- 90 percent of Kansans think telehealth is a good way to access care without taking time away from work or family
While some of these results may not be entirely surprising, it corroborates many of KHA's beliefs. Telemedicine is one way to ensure Kansans have the same access to health care services regardless of geographic location. This conversation also needs to include the continued discussion for the state to develop a comprehensive strategy around broadband, as telemedicine works best when there is adequate connectivity to support it. We hope elected officials and health insurance partners are paying close attention and permanently put in place many of the telemedicine flexibilities offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.