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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Barger Seeks to Expand Telehealth Services

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Sheila Kuehl to examine the county’s use of telehealth services during the pandemic and to evaluate opportunities to expand the programs into the future.

Since the Safer at Home public health orders were implemented in March, county departments, first responders, community-based organizations, and service providers have shifted to virtual consultations and evaluations.

Medical consultations, mental health services, alcohol and substance abuse treatment, preventative care, and other essential services have all adapted to serve those in need through video appointments.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth operations in the Los Angeles County health care system have served a critical role to ensure community members receive the care they need,” Barger said in a prepared statement. “While we have had to make adjustments during the Safer at Home directive, these advancements could allow us to better reach our communities in a way that is innovative, convenient, and — most importantly — accessible to those in need.”

Video platforms have enabled patients to connect with services from the comfort of home while ensuring providers remain compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA. Health care services are now available for patients who may have had difficulty attending in-person appointments in the past. Telehealth programs have also supplemented costly services and decreased the use of emergency response and health care facilities.

The chief executive officer will evaluate if hard-to-reach communities have benefited from increased access to telehealth services and identify which programs would be effective in a standard health care situation once the pandemic has subsided. They will also identify available funding sources, such as the County Information and Technology Fund or state and federal grants, and determine any legislative opportunities or barriers.

The CEO will report back to the Board of Supervisors in 45 days with their findings.

“The devastating impacts of COVID-19 have required the county to develop new ways, such as the expansion of telehealth services, to continue providing high-quality services to our residents,” said Kuehl. “Allowing our clients to receive vital health and mental health services from their own homes has resulted in improved patient access and fewer missed appointments. I am excited to discover ways to further expand telehealth services and make it even easier for our residents to receive great care in the future.”

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