A New Way Forward

June 01, 2020

COVID-19 has upended all our lives. In the process, it has revealed how we might deliver even better care and make the system work more efficiently for all.

The most striking example is telehealth, which became the norm in Maryland and nationwide almost overnight. With the need to keep social distance, many patients and health care providers turned to their computers, phones, and other devices to seek and to deliver care.

Many of you have told us that a good number of patient encounters could continue to be done remotely, though some are still figuring out which visits are most suitable and which modalities work best.

MHA strongly advocated for telehealth legislation that passed during this year’s abbreviated General Assembly session. Gov. Larry Hogan issued executive orders starting in March to expand telehealth in Medicaid—allowing services in patients’ homes, audio-only services, and email communications. Medicare also greatly expanded telehealth in response to COVID. MHA pushed all payers to cover audio-only telehealth permanently and advocated for additional changes to improve telehealth.

We also have seen how changes to the licensure process for health care professionals during this crisis could help to shore up our hospital workforces into the future. With that in mind, MHA will pursue opportunities to extend improvements made to the provider licensure process, with a focus on physicians and physician assistants.

Finally, the threat of lawsuits has risen even as you respond to the crisis and comply with government orders. Maryland law offers immunity under a public health emergency, yet more is needed to protect from unwarranted lawsuits. The MHA Liability Work Group and Legislative Strategy Group already are developing legislation to strengthen liability protections in a public health emergency.

We look forward to applying lessons learned to make permanent some of the policy and rule changes we’ve seen make sense for hospitals and patients.

Bob Atlas
President & CEO