Telehealth Is Grabbing the Pandemic Spotlight.

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Can California Do More to Help It Grow?

In a decade at the Sacramento-based Center for Connected Health Policy, Mei Wa Kwong has had to answer a basic question more times than she can count: “What, exactly, is telehealth?” And until recently, she doesn’t recall the word being used so frequently by a president of the United States.

Telehealth, previously known as telemedicine, generally refers to the use of interactive video and audio to diagnose, treat, or facilitate the delivery of health services. It allows doctors, nurses, or therapists in one place to connect with and perhaps visually examine a person in a different place. In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world and overwhelmed the health care systems of many countries, telehealth is having a moment in the spotlight.

In California and the rest of the nation, the pandemic is an urgent wake-up call about the need for policy reforms to expand telehealth accessibility.

Since it was established in 2008 with funding from the California Health Care Foundation, the Center for Connected Health Policy has worked to build telehealth capacity into the US health care system. In 2012, the center was designated by the federal government as a telehealth policy resource center, providing technical assistance to policymakers, health systems, consumers, and providers. Kwong joined the center as an analyst in 2010 and has served as executive director since 2018.

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