scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Telehealth is a thing. For real. Now how to make full use of it?

Dr. Barbara Spivak, a primary care doctor who occasionally uses telehealth, talked with a patient using a computer in her Watertown office.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Key tool serves a range of clinical needs. Reimbursement should reflect that.

We applaud the facts presented by Dr. Barbara Spivak, president-elect of the Massachusetts Medical Society, in the article “Uncertain future for telehealth” (Page A1, March 13). Telehealth is essential to the effective provision of health care.

We also applaud Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ recent decision to continue to reimburse for primary care and chronic condition telehealth visits at the same rates as in-person care. However, the chief medical officer for commercial products at health insurance company Point32Health missed much in saying that telehealth is “for low-acuity episodes, things that don’t require much in the way of physical demand.” In fact, today’s telehealth provides clinical expertise and services that are as resource- and labor-intensive as in-person visits.


A recent Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association report detailed the benefits of telehealth, noting that while telehealth changes the care venue, the cost to provide that care does not change. Telehealth has improved care for Massachusetts patients and is extremely effective, especially for continuity of complex chronic care. Rarely do we find such a dramatic introduction of a health care tool of such value. Payers should recognize it as an essential patient care modality and reimburse providers accordingly.

Dr. Alexa B. Kimball


The writer is president of Physician Performance LLC and CEO of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

We need to ensure that all patients have digital access

The article “Uncertain future for telehealth” is a call to action for policy makers to act on the inextricable link between health equity, well-being, and digital equity.

The article focuses mostly on rollbacks to health insurance reimbursement for virtual care now that COVID-19-era policies are being phased out, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that, as Kestrell Verlager, an advocate for technology access, points out, digital equity is a crucial piece of the conversation. “You’re supposed to be talking about your health, not stressing over whether you’ll be able to access the link,” Verlager said in the article.


Just as insurance policies are changing, receding focus on digital equity, which took center stage during the pandemic, threatens to put telehealth out of reach for many patients because they don’t have access to affordable Internet, working devices, or the skills training they need to fully engage.

There are bills pending in the Legislature aimed at elevating digital equity alongside telehealth reimbursement reform. As lawmakers consider this legislation, they must prioritize investments in digital equity, including access and resources, in addition to patient access and support for providers.

Marvin Venay

Chief advocacy officer

Tech Goes Home