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Foundation gives Colorado favorable ratings for telehealth regulations

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – Colorado received two favorable scores in four areas reviewed in the Reason Foundation’s 50-state review of current telehealth regulations and innovation.

Colorado was praised for being modality neutral, defined as providing for health systems to utilize many kinds of telehealth and not only live video. Telehealth is defined as delivering health care services using telecommunications technologies for either synchronous or asynchronous delivery of services through technology.

The Reason Foundation report, “State Policy Agenda for Telehealth Innovation,” stated lawmakers have an opportunity to learn from both mistakes and breakthroughs made in telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research found a trend of states showing “a surprising lack of urgency” in updating laws and regulations in the area.

Colorado also received a favorable rating for allowing patients to start telehealth by any mode. The organization gave an unsatisfactory rating to Colorado’s barriers to telehealth across state lines. The report recommended legislators pass an “easy registration or reciprocity law for all providers” to provide access to virtual care from providers licensed in other states.

The report gave Colorado a fair rating on regulations pertaining to nurse practitioners being allowed to practice without a doctor providing oversight or co-signing work. The report urged changing of state laws and regulations to allow providers to practice at “the top of their license to take the next step toward a more quality-oriented, affordable, and innovative health system.”

“While telehealth services were available long before the pandemic, millions of Americans used telehealth for the first time over the past three years,” the report said. “The rapid adoption of telehealth technology was enabled by emergency regulatory reforms undertaken at the federal and state levels.”

The only states to receive positive assessments in all four categories were Arizona and Delaware.

“States must continue to refocus their efforts to ensure clear laws and guidelines are in place for innovation to emerge so that patients and providers can benefit from this helpful tool in any care delivery toolbox,” the report stated. “Immediate action will be needed to avoid disrupting patient access to providers they gained during COVID, as other options may not exist in their community. For many patients, cutting off remote access to care is the difference between them receiving care in this manner versus no care at all.”

The Center for Improving Health Care, a non-profit in Colorado dedicated to fostering collaboration in support services and healthcare information, reported 9.5 million telehealth services provided from 2019 to 2021. The agency’s research showed 52 percent of telehealth utilization in the state was for mental health conditions, followed by endocrine/nutritional conditions (6 percent) musculoskeletal conditions (5 percent) and nervous system conditions (5 percent).

The top telehealth providers were behavioral health (39 percent) and primary care (23 percent).

More than $1 million was spent on the telehealth services with an average of $180 in medical spending per person, per year. Approximately 36 percent of telehealth users were between the ages of 18 and 44 and 23 percent were age 17 or younger.