Coronavirus could finally unleash innovative promise of 21st century technology – Washington Examiner

Posted: April 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

My mother is a public school elementary teacher in a low-income neighborhood of Salinas, California, a modest suburban town fueled by the agriculture industry. Of all the schools nationwide, I would have expected her school to be one of the last to transition from the classroom to distance learning during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Almost 85% of her students come from low-income households, and many are the children of migrant workers.

Yet, to my pleasant surprise, my mothers school has been online for two weeks now, only days after Californias statewide shelter-in-place order came into effect. Not only that, she tells me that attendance is strong. Students whose families did not have a computer or internet connection were lent one temporarily with a hot spot connection from the school. In normal times, it would be nothing short of a miracle that a bureaucratic public school system could shift its centuries-old model so quickly. But these, of course, are not normal times.

If theres any light at the end of the tunnel with the coronavirus shutdown, it might just be schools such as my moms finally embracing the distance learning tools that have been available for years now. While the internet has the promise fundamentally to disrupt industries such as education and healthcare for the better, policymakers and professionals have dragged their feet for years. The coronavirus could finally push Americas largest and most important institutions to get with the program and unleash the promise of the 21st century.

This could clearly manifest in the healthcare industry, as state medical boards have strictly regulated telemedicine for years.

For private insurance, 49 states require that doctors are licensed in their jurisdiction to practice telemedicine a senseless cartel rule, considering that the internet can connect patients with doctors anywhere on the planet instantaneously. For Medicaid, states vastly differ on when patients can speak with their doctor remotely, what health information can be passed along electronically, and how much providers can be reimbursed for online versus in-person consultations.

Many of those long-standing laws are now out the window, with 46 states and D.C. having issued emergency exemptions for rules concerning telemedicine expanding access, matching in-person rates for reimbursements, and allowing doctors to consult with patients in other states.

Erick Wicklund gives a significant example in Americas second-most-populated state:

In Texas, for instance, Gov. Rick Abbotts March 14 State Disaster Declaration enables providers in the state to use telemedicine, including the use of telephone only to treat existing and new patients. Texas is well-known for the long-running battle between the Texas Medical Board and Teladoc over the states since-amended rule that a doctor must see a new patient in person before using telehealth.

Of course, the positive new policies of this exceptional time will not immediately become the new normal. Some states will doubtlessly revoke their emergency telemedicine policies when social distancing orders start to ease. Students will have to close their laptops and return to schools, and some schools havent made the transition online as well as my mothers in the first place.

This return to normalcy will be a key point for parents, patients, and the general public to stand up to our policymakers. If easing regulations worked in the worst of times, it certainly can in the best of times. And distance learning and telemedicine are just the beginning. There are so many innovations just waiting to be unleashed in these fields if we just let them.

Peter Thiel famously noted of past expectations of the future, We wanted flying cars. Instead, we got 140 characters. Its true the internet has the promise to improve the lives of millions in fields such as education and healthcare, but weve yet to see many groundbreaking changes implemented on a massive scale. The coronaviruss grand online experiment, combined with continued pressure for reforms when things return to normal, could finally unleash the 21st century weve all been waiting for.

Casey Given (@CaseyJGiven) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the executive director of Young Voices.

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Coronavirus could finally unleash innovative promise of 21st century technology - Washington Examiner

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