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Spring 2023 - Safety

Expanding the Use of Telehealth and Virtual Care

How healthcare industry stakeholders are working to make telehealth and virtual care permanent delivery systems

Telehealth IS defined as a healthcare delivery system that digitally connects patients and healthcare providers when in-person care is not necessary or possible. Using telehealth services, patients can receive care, consult with a healthcare provider, get information about a condition or treatment, arrange for prescriptions and receive a diagnosis.1 Telehealth and virtual care have existed in the United States for about 30 years, but they functioned on patchwork policy until the COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed expansion with exceptional results.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, “Expanding telehealth and virtual care can increase access to care for rural communities, underserved and vulnerable patient populations, and to individuals unable to secure in-person care, ensuring that everyone has access to safe, effective and appropriate care when and where they need it.”1

Here’s how major healthcare industry associations are working to expand telehealth and virtual care services in the coming years.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)

Representing nursing schools from 850 universities and colleges combined, AACN is a national association of deans and faculty dedicated to advancing nursing education. According to AACN, “To prepare graduates for the evolving healthcare system, programs will need to encompass didactic, simulated and clinical field learning opportunities in diverse settings, including community, primary care, long-term care, acute care, hospice and virtual care settings (telehealth).”2 AACN further observes that “the increasing use of telehealth, as well as the growth of nonhospital settings, will affect the RN [registered nurse] and APRN [advanced practical registered nurse] nursing workforces.”2

To help equip them for these challenges, AACN recently presented two telehealth training webinars to its nursing students and alumni. The first, Telehealth: Nurses Called to Action (February 2020), explores the current telehealth landscape and examines essential telehealth components that influence nursing practice and the ability to reach patients with vital healthcare services by telehealth. The second, Consumer Health: Preparing Nurse Graduates for Telehealth and Informatics (April 2022), defines consumer health, health informatics and nursing informatics, explains how the consumerization of healthcare impacts nurses’ roles and prepares future nurses on the current state of informatics, including telehealth and mobile wellness applications.

Given the rapid expansion of telehealth — particularly in rural communities — AACN expects telehealth to expand, and encourages nursing schools to develop learning experiences that will help nurses leverage telehealth in their professional practice.

American Nurses Association (ANA)

ANA represents the nation’s 4.4 million registered nurses. According to the association, “Nurses are highly trained and well-educated to effectively use telehealth technologies, supervise remote patient monitoring activities and provide quality care using tools that promote access to timely care without the burdens often existing in remote geographic locations or appointment shortage areas.”3

In 2019, ANA updated its Core Principles on Connected Health, which contains 13 principles that act as a guide for healthcare professionals who use connected health technologies to provide quality healthcare.4

“There is robust evidence demonstrating that telehealth technologies make healthcare more effective and efficient by electronically connecting clinicians to clinicians, patients to clinicians and patients and caregivers to other resources. This approach facilitates remote diagnosis and treatment, continuous monitoring and adjustment of therapies, support for patient self-care and the leveraging of providers across large populations of patients,” adds ANA.3

American Medical Association (AMA)

AMA is a professional association and lobbying group of physicians and medical students with more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, two million nurses and other caregivers. According to AMA trustee Jack Resneck, MD, “Telehealth is a critical part of the future of effective, efficient and equitable delivery of healthcare in the United States.”5

The association believes it is essential that physicians and other healthcare providers are licensed in the state where the patient is located to ensure telemedicine services are provided in a secure environment. AMA also believes efforts should be made to increase membership in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.5

However, this policy is more flexible when it believes the physician should be licensed or otherwise authorized by the state where the patient is located, and it has a new policy regarding working with states on exemptions. According to AMA, it is not about licensing per se, but rather how to ensure patient safety and appropriate oversight over the practice of medicine in interstate situations made possible by telehealth.

AMA strongly supported the two-year waiver extension for telehealth provisions that was included in the omnibus bill that was passed on Dec. 29, 2022, and it will continue to seek permanent repeal of these outmoded statutory restrictions.

Further, AMA says its Return on Health research identified many healthcare organizations that are moving to hybrid models of care that combine virtual, in-person and remote monitoring services.

American Telemedicine Association (ATA)

ATA is a nonprofit organization that represents a network of healthcare delivery systems, academic institutions, technology solution providers and payers, as well as partner organizations and alliances, which work to advance industry adoption of telehealth. The association’s nine policy principles promote a healthcare delivery system in which everyone has access to safe, effective and appropriate care when and where they need it, while enabling clinicians to do more good for more people.6 ATA, and its affiliate trade organization, ATA Action, are working with lawmakers and policymakers to determine the best path forward to integrate virtual healthcare into an omnichannel healthcare system that includes in-person and virtual healthcare delivery in the future.

In December 2022, ATA and ATA Action launched Vision 2030: The Future of Telehealth in the United States. The vision contains six roadblocks that patients, providers, policymakers and digital solution companies need to tackle to create a pathway toward a future of telehealth for everyone.7

Further, in 2022, ATA Action launched Patient Voices for Telehealth Coalition (PVTC) to ensure patient perspectives are prominent in the debate for telehealth permanency. PVTC represents diverse patient communities providing perspectives on federal and state policies related to virtual healthcare and participates in activities to support the advancement of telehealth.8

And, in 2021, ATA launched Telehealth Awareness Week, featuring a series of national and regional events exploring the role of telehealth in healthcare delivery, providing new educational resources focused on the key advantages of hybrid healthcare and elevating the voices of patients and healthcare professionals who depend on telehealth to receive and deliver care.9


  1. American Telemedicine Association. Telehealth: Defining 21st Century Care. Accessed at
  2. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. AACN’s Vision for Academic Nursing, January 2019. Accessed at
  3. American Nurses Association. The Future of Telehealth: How COVID-19 Is Changing the Delivery of Virtual Care; House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, March 2, 2021. Accessed at—telehealth-hearing-2021.03.02.pdf.
  4. American Nurses Association. ANA Core Principles on Connected Health, June 6, 2019. Accessed at
  5. American Medical Association. U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Re: Charting the Path Forward on Telehealth, April 28, 2021. Accessed at searchlf.ama-
  6. American Telemedicine Association. ATA Policy Principles, July 2020. Accessed at,%20RFI,%20etc./Policy%20Principles%202020%20FINAL.pdf.
  7. American Telemedicine Association. The ATA and ATA Action’s Vision 2030: The Future of Telehealth in the United States, December 2022. Accessed at
  8. American Telemedicine Association. ATA Action Welcome Page. Accessed at
  9. American Telemedicine Association. Telehealth Awareness Week. Accessed at
Diane L.M. Cook
Diane L.M. Cook, BComm, is a freelance trade magazine writer based in Canada.