Why health officials say telehealth will stick around beyond the pandemic

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VIGO Co., Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — At the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns, some health organizations, like Horizon Health in Paris had to think fast when it came to telehealth.

“I had never done telehealth until COVID hit in March. I was scurrying around trying to find Zoom cameras for everyone,” said Angela Hamilton, a nurse practitioner for Horizon Health.

Hamilton said she learned to make the telehealth concept work for her patients.

“I would have to teach either the significant other, or the child, or whoever was there with them, to actually help me do the  exam and get the camera adjusted for where I wanted to see,” she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of telehealth increased by 54% by the end of March 2020.

By the end of the first half of 2020, Indiana saw nearly 350,000 telehealth claims compared to 76,000 in 2019.

Hamilton Center is one Indiana behavioral health organization that had telehealth before, but saw it grow during the pandemic.

“The longer that the pandemic has gone on, the increase for services that we’ve seen,” said Mark Collins, Chief Clinician Officer at Hamilton Center.

According to Hamilton, while Horizon Health hasn’t seen as many telehealth patients as before, she believes it will continue,

“I do feel that it is going to at least be there as an option and I hope that we keep it as an option,”

Collins said, he’s confident telehealth is here to stay.

“I believe the state of Indiana, and our county in Vigo and our country has recognized the value of telehealth services. There’s a lot of people on board for telehealth,” Collins said.

A bill to expand telehealth is advancing in the Indiana Statehouse.

State representative Shane Lindauer wants to make sure telehealth patients get the same quality as in-person appointments.

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