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Telehealth Access and Policy in Kansas (December 2020)

By Sydney McClendon, Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., Peter F. H. Barstad | December 21, 2020

Telehealth Access and Policy in Kansas (December 2020)

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Beginning in March 2020, as COVID-19 cases rose in Kansas and across the U.S., rapid changes in telehealth policy allowed providers to offer care in a socially distanced manner. Looking ahead to a post-COVID-19 world, policymakers in Kansas and around the country are now considering which policy changes should continue, which should not, and whether other changes are needed to encourage the appropriate use of telehealth moving forward.  

This two-part series explores the issue of telehealth. The first brief, Telehealth (Part 1): Providing Access to Care in a Time of Social Distancing, defines telehealth, which includes telemedicine and other services, and describes its growing use and potential impact on the cost of care and health outcomes. The second brief, Telehealth (Part 2): Policy Options to Improve Access to Care in Kansas, explores factors that influence the utilization of telehealth and how those factors relate to the Kansas policy landscape.

Key points from the series include:

  • Telehealth may be one way to increase access to care in rural areas. If the technology infrastructure exists and providers are willing, rural residents have demonstrated high rates of use.
  • Provider interest in offering telehealth services can be hampered by high start-up costs, level of reimbursement, lack of telehealth training and fears about quality of care.
  • While telehealth has been used for a variety of purposes, most utilization has been for behavioral health services, which includes mental health services and substance use disorder (SUD) services.
  • Patients without adequate devices or broadband may be unable to access telehealth services.

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.