RBT CPA’s Manager Rebecca Reynolds, CPA, MBA Joins the CFHV

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rebecca Reynolds

RBT CPA’s Manager Rebecca Reynolds joins The Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley (CFHV) as their newest Trustee Member  and Chair of the Audit Committee. This prestigious role will allow Rebecca to join an equally committed team that is dedicated to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the organization while targeting meaningful investments to meet the needs of the community.

The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley  works to strengthen the Hudson Valley by helping individuals, businesses, and organizations establish and administer funds that support vital causes and charities. Partnering with generous donors, they address current and emerging community needs through effective grantmaking to improve the quality of life for all. Additionally, they provide technical assistance to help nonprofits operate more effectively. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, hundreds of donors have contributed to CFHV, supporting urgent local needs to help mitigate ongoing pandemic impacts.

“What an honor for Rebecca to be elected to the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Audit Committee, it’s so well earned,” said RBT CPA’s Managing Partner, Mike Turturro. “Rebecca exemplifies integrity, brilliance, and balance, she will be a remarkable addition to the board.”

“We are honored and grateful that Rebecca is joining the Community Foundations as a Trustee and Chair of the Audit Committee,” said Sally J. Cross, President and CEO of Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. “The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley has thrived in this region for more than 50 years with the support of accomplished and civic-minded volunteers like her.”

The dedicated professional RBT staff would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Rebecca as she begins this exciting and well-deserved new role. To learn more about the diverse offerings and award-winning service you can expect from RBT, please visit the RBT site. To learn more about ways you can get involved with The Community Foundation of the Hudson Valley, please visit the CFHV site.

RBT CPAs Awarded on the Forbes America’s Best Tax Firms 2021 List

Flying Geese 2021

RBT CPAs has been awarded a spot on the Forbes list of America’s Best Tax Firms 2021. This prestigious award is presented by Forbes and Statista Inc., the world-leading statistics portal and industry ranking provider. The awards list was announced on December 1st, 2020, and can currently be viewed on the Forbes website or download the PDF.

Forbes and Statista created the award list through an independent survey of tax and accounting professionals who provided thousands of recommendations. Respondents were recruited through an online survey as well as through a carefully profiled online-access panel. Recommendations from professionals working at tax and accounting firms as well as professionals working with tax and accounting firms were considered in equal measure.

“Based on the results of the study, RBT CPAs is ecstatic to be recognized on the Forbes list of America’s Best Tax and Firms 2021,” said Managing Partner, Mike Turturro.

As community-minded, trusted business advisors and advocates, RBT’s high-value accounting, auditing, consulting, and tax services have previously earned the firm recognition as the ‘Best in the Hudson Valley’ and one of the firms to watch. RBT team members attribute the recent Forbes distinction to its strategic, innovative, and caring environment that is dedicated to making the client’s experiences remarkable.

The dedicated professional RBT staff is committed to providing outstanding service and prompt communication with clients as New York faces unprecedented economic challenges in the New Year. To learn more about the diverse offerings and award-winning service you can expect from RBT, please browse our site or contact us.

Hours, Hours, and Less Hours

Hours, Hours, and Less Hours

Excitement is building as we are getting ready to celebrate the last holidays of the year. The majority of us will be lucky enough to have two short work weeks without dipping into our personal PTO bank. When we return to our offices in January, we will return to our normal 40 hour workweek. Unless you’re an accountant, that is.

If you’re an accountant, January is the start of a whole different season reserved especially for you. The close of the holiday season means saying goodbye to holiday cheer, gift exchanges, and homemade cookies. Yes, January ushers in tax season – marked by colder temperatures (if you’re here in the Northeast), longer days, and lots of work. At the majority of accounting firms, it is not uncommon for an accountant’s work schedule to go from 45-50 hours per week up to 65-70 hours (or more) per week from January through April 15th. If you’re an accountant at a Big Four Firm – you know this to be true. The expectation that you are required to work longer hours is generally accepted as a part of the industry culture. In addition, accountants need to complete billable hours – time that can be billed to a client. Because it’s impossible to bill every minute of an accountant’s day to billable time, an accountant might need to work an hour and a half in order to be able to charge one hour of billable time. What does this all add up to? Three and a half months of long days and nights spent at most firms. Most – but not all.

Here’s where RBT CPA’s is different. As the largest CPA firm in New York’s Hudson Valley, we reject the status quo and still produce stellar work for our clients. We start our busy season in the middle of January, and from the middle of January to the middle of February we cap our total hours worked at just 50. Then from mid-February to April 15th the maximum number of hours a person is allowed to work gets capped at just 55 per week. At some other firms, 55 hours is the norm when it comes to a workweek. At RBT, a 55 hour work week is the exception for a short period of time.

Consider how valuable this work balance is when you factor in your annual salary working an average of 65 – 70 hour workweek versus a 40 – 55 hour workweek. When you do the math and break your salary down to an hourly wage, there is a sizeable earning difference between the two. At RBT, we believe a healthy, happy employee is one who has a life outside of work. We feel being able to spend invaluable time with your friends even during the busy season is key to maintaining your physical and emotional health.

Sounds too good to be true, but… it is! Contact Jclancy@rbtcpas.com to talk about opportunities to join the team.

The Best Way to Manufacturing

Fixing Manufacturing Equipment

When someone mentions artificial intelligence (AI) to you – what comes to mind?

Does a terrifying scene from Terminator spring to life, with evil robots stealing our jobs, decimating our workforce, and destroying life as we know it? Well whether you realize it or not, AI is already integrated into nearly every aspect of your life and is slated to improve your workflow, too. From relying on spam filters in your email inbox to recruiting digital voice assistance tools like Alexa to share the weather forecast, explain a new recipe, or even blast Sinatra in your kitchen while you do the dishes – you use AI. Across industries, AI is paving the way towards a more cost-efficient, sophisticated future. Let’s explore the most prominent role AI has within the manufacturing industry and why you could be missing out on huge savings if you’re not on board.

We probably don’t need to explain to you why guessing isn’t exactly a sound business strategy, but for generations, manufacturers were limited when it came to handling equipment maintenance. The reality is, many companies consistently run machines until they break and then spend a lot of money replacing systems and wasting valuable time. A revealing joint study by The Wall Street Journal and Emerson found that unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion per year. Equipment failure accounts for an astounding 42% of this unplanned downtime. How much money could you save if you stopped maintaining your equipment on a fixed schedule basis or worse – guessed when it’s time for a fix? The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling manufacturers to transform from reactive to proactive, thanks to wireless connectivity, access to inexpensive sensors, and cloud computing. By implementing AI that uses complex analysis to predict pending component failures, a manufacturing team can receive notifications automatically right to their cell phones, and the problem can be solved before it exists. By adopting predictive maintenance solutions, manufacturers can optimize assets and ultimately, save avoidable costs. Many are already reaping the benefits of predictive maintenance, in fact, according to 2020 AI stats, nearly 30% of AI implementation within the manufacturing industry goes towards improving maintenance. To start taking advantage of predictive maintenance practices, you need to equip your machines with emerging tech, like sensors, cameras, and software that can analyze data in real-time. From 3D printers and scanners to steel-cutting lasers, conveyor belts with high-resolution cameras, and thermal process sensors, smart devices enable you to collect a ton of useful data about the machines’ performance and productive lifespan. You should also plan on retraining team members so everyone is on the same page with your new strategy.

The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2022, 75% of enterprises will embed intelligent automation into technology and process development. The same report projects that by 2024, AI will become the new user interface, and 50% of user touches will be augmented by computer vision, natural language, augmented reality, and virtual reality. AI will be seemingly invisible, yet omnipresent. We hope the economic challenges presented by 2020 do not deter your company from pursuing sophisticated AI but instead drive you to advance and adapt. At RBT, we believe maximizing the value of ever-increasing data will separate those who lead from those who lag. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our dedicated team members today to talk about the exciting and innovative opportunities to grow your business.

New York Municipal Governments and COVID-19: Important Financial and Accounting Considerations for 2021

Covid-19 - Looking Towards 2021

Eight months into the global COVID-19 pandemic, local governments in New York are faced with bad news and good news:

On one hand, a new rise in case numbers, and little movement on legislation to help municipalities weather the fiscal fallout of the ongoing pandemic; and on the other hand, the development of two vaccines and improved treatments for the virus.

Local government has a hard road ahead in 2021. Local leaders will likely have to dip into fund balance even more than in 2020, and may face yet another round of belt-tightening. A number of federal relief programs for individuals and businesses are slated to end with 2020. Late last month, the New York State Division of the Budget released its mid-year report, projecting a General Fund revenue decline of $14.9 billion and a tax receipts decline of 15.3 percent from February 2020 projections.

The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities projects that New York will see a $16 billion decline in tax revenues for 2022, representing a 17 percent decline from pre-COVID revenue projections.

Some of 2020’s severe measures may ease the stresses a little in the coming year.

Where municipalities used retirement or separation incentives to reduce staff, they may see continuing personnel cost reductions, the goal of the incentives.

However, municipalities may still face rising personnel costs due to the pandemic’s effect on the state’s Common Retirement Fund, which pays for the state Employees Retirement System and the state Police and Fire Retirement System. The market reaction to COVID-19 and the shutdown meant a lower return on investment for the fund earlier in the year, and higher contributions from municipal employers for 2021.

The New York State Comptroller’s Office projects that the employer contribution will rise again in 2022.

Deep in local budget season, many municipalities are reckoning with what new measures they might have to consider next year.

What is a supervisor or mayor to do? Start with the basics.

Monitor budgets more frequently and more carefully throughout the year; analyze trends as you go so you can make changes, anticipate issues and not be taken by surprise.

If there is a big lesson of the pandemic, it’s the need for solid, well-thought-out budget and fund balance policies, grounded in data and based on an approach that balances the effects on services, municipal staff, and taxpayers.

A local government that has analyzed its policies, its demographics, its services and its needs can then find creative ways to economize and to generate new revenues.

We have offered suggestions over the past several weeks.

  • Develop a sound fund balance policy and plan.
  • Independent budget reviews may help guide your decisions, and help officials make non-political recommendations.
  • Consider issuing short-term debt to raise cash.
  • Consider early retirement incentives if you haven’t already done so
  • Is it feasible for your municipality to share services with a neighboring community? Combining forces could lead to savings.
  • Would an improvement district, such as a Business Improvement District, allow you to provide better services in a downtown area without raising taxes on residents outside that neighborhood?
  • Are your service fee structures and development fees where they should be? Are the people who benefit the ones paying for the services?
  • Will outsourcing your accounting services provide expert attention to your municipal books while allowing employees to better serve your residents?

Not so long ago, local government officials could get away with just passing a budget, letting things run on their own, and then perhaps, being surprised about where things stood when the new budget process began.

COVID-19 has taught us that leaders must pay more attention than in the past, and it has taught us that resilience is key to weathering difficult times. Care, close attention and sound data-based strategies are key to handling the challenges COVID-19 will continue to bring in 2021.

5 Tips Towards a Smarter Financial Healthcare System

Healthcare Tips

This past spring, the healthcare industry was clobbered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Resources were stretched to the limit and there was not nearly enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep medical staff or patients safe. We have seen medical professionals wear bandanas as makeshift masks, and trash bags in place of gowns — heightening the risk of infection and possibly death. As cases continue to explode, so do concerns about pushing our healthcare system beyond its capability. Healthcare administrators need innovative solutions to reduce operational expenses while simultaneously ensuring ample resource availability to cope with the next health crisis. Sound like an oxymoron? We’re here to help. Here are five tips you can implement to improve your inventory management and keep a handle on supply costs:

1. Collect Data from the Supply Chain

Failing to use supply chain data can result in billions of wasted dollars, yet many hospitals and medical centers are still using less sophisticated manual processes like Excel spreadsheets to manage inventory, supply expenses and other supply chain activities. An analysis by Navigant Consulting, estimates that hospitals could save an average of 17.7 percent or $11 million per hospital annually by standardizing their supply chain processes. Using value-based reimbursement models, organizations can more accurately link supplies needed and patient outcomes.

2. Clearly Organize Responsibilities

It’s time to Marie Kondo your inventory of supplies, because we all know that saving time and money sparks joy! Firstly, your team should aim to reduce wasted materials by getting organized – place products nearing expiration towards the front of facility closets. Additionally, get your team onboard by ensuring responsibilities are clearly outlined. Everyone who comes in direct contact with medical supplies should fully understand his or her role in healthcare inventory management. From cleaning rooms, to ordering supplies, or checking purchase orders for accuracy, so many hospital staff members contribute to successful inventory management. Establishing clear communication is the first step to avoiding confusion between departments.

3. Analyze Usage Vs. Order Frequency

Understanding precisely how much of a certain item you are ordering per week, month, or quarter compared to how much of that item you are using in the same timeframe is key to avoiding waste, saving valuable dollars, and planning for success. Another best practice tip? Don’t just assume if you ordered 10,000 units of a product last quarter, you should place that same order again. Make periodic adjustments to your ordering patterns based on the result of the last analysis.

4. Upgrade Hospital Inventory Technology

Are some of your management tools outdated? Sit down with your management team and identify the biggest issues you experienced in your inventory management, from software to computer equipment. Finding the limitations in your technology is a good way to determine if purchasing a new technology is necessary, or if new procedures need to be created. For example, you can create a streamlined tracking process by investing in an automated system that utilizes barcodes and RFID tags with unique identification numbers for each inventory item. Medical staff can scan the barcodes with mobile scanners and trust the data will be stored in the system; at the same time, the automatic data capture ensures accurate reporting for charting and inventory purposes. Automated inventory management systems can also identify whether products have been recalled or damaged. By adopting a more sophisticated digital platform, you can create a more balanced, prepared environment.

5. Time to Get Lean!

No, we are not talking about the “quarantine 15” though – we can relate. We’re referring to implementing a lean strategy to generate savings and create a better understanding of your costs. Lean teams generally aim to create standardized protocols, cut waste and develop cultures of continuous improvement that allow hospitals to adapt to rapid changes in the healthcare system. But despite proven results, the majority of health systems are not using the Lean method. In 2016, Caldwell Memorial Hospital in North Carolina, for instance, reported that it saved $2.62 million over two months with a lean strategy.

We understand it’s an incredibly challenging moment in history for the healthcare community and every dollar counts.

We want to help you be more equipped for the ongoing pandemic and future challenges. The dedicated staff at RBT is here to help answer any personalized questions you have regarding the way your team is running your healthcare system.

Knowing when outsourced accounting services can benefit New York local governments

Government Offical Deciding

COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdown have been hard on local governments, and now may be a good time to weigh whether the trained eyes of outside accounting services can help put your Town, Village or City back on track.

In the best of times, officials in New York’s cities, town, villages, and counties have had to keep careful watch over spending. The pandemic, which brought budget cuts and state aid holdbacks, also brought along with cost-cutting measures to many municipalities. That included trimming staff through early retirement incentives, layoffs, and furloughs.

Did your municipality lose institutional knowledge when staff took retirement? What will it cost you to hire a new person, one with solid knowledge of the ins and outs of government accounting and bookkeeping, which is so different from commercial bookkeeping, to guide you through these tough times? Would hiring an outside consultant for accounting, one who specializes in government accounting, be more cost-effective?

The first thing for a municipality to consider when deciding whether to outsource this service to an independent accountant is the real cost of hiring a new full-time employee. In addition to salary, the municipality also bears the cost of medical benefits, as an employee and also as a future retiree, besides making payments into a pension fund.

For some municipal leaders, the initial reaction might be that they may prefer to have “a person in a seat,” someone in the building, who they can talk to directly. But if the pandemic has taught us all one thing, it’s how easily we can use Zoom or other video meeting programs for instant or near-instant virtual conversations. With one quick emailed meeting link, a mayor or supervisor can have an in-depth discussion, face to face via screen, with his or her accounting professional. That might have seemed unthinkable a year ago, but now virtual meetings are a staple of our professional, governmental, and personal lives.

And, of course, a consulting accounting firm could still have someone make on-site visits to the local government.

The outsourcing arrangement can free up the local government’s office staff to handle everyday cash transactions, receipts, and general bookkeeping, which can also improve their services to the public.

An outside accountant who specializes in governments can help the municipality identify ways to do things more efficiently and can help officials look for more ways to control or cut costs while minimizing the effects on services for the public.

Such outside accounting services can also provide an independent look at the municipal operations from an internal control perspective. They can help identify weaknesses in cash controls and review bank reconciliations. While hiring an independent accounting service will not relieve your local government of the need for periodic audits, it can prevent surprises when the audit comes.

Your government accounting specialist can advise your officials and remind them what you need to do at various points in the year, as well as review your budget.

The appropriate consultant is not just an accountant; he or she can also function as your financial accounting advisor who can also help smooth over tensions on boards when disagreements occur because the accounting advisor is independent.

Local governments in New York looking for ways to weather the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic have had to come up with a myriad of new strategies to cut costs without decimating services to residents. Outsourcing accounting services to an independent specialist can be another outside-the-box strategy that saves taxpayer money while providing expertise and credibility to municipal operations.

Bumpy Road Ahead for NY’s Public Works

Signs of Construction Jobs Slowing Down

If you’re a part of this industry, you know it’s a late cycle business. You work on a backlog, so you never feel an immediate slowdown, and there’s (usually) always a project in the pipelines. But this past spring threw a curveball no one could have anticipated or predicted. Now, we’ve experienced our fair share of economic slowdowns in New York. As an industry, construction crews came together and supported one another in the aftermath of 9/11. You braced yourselves and recovered after the 2008 economic recession. But COVID-19 has created one of the fastest economic slowdowns in history, it feels a lot like we were collectively driving 65 miles per hour down Route 84 and slammed on the breaks without warning. Hopefully, you had your seat belt on because ever since February we’ve all been in for a bumpy ride. Forward procurement hasn’t stopped altogether but it has greatly softened, so while the construction industry is still fairly busy right now, contractor’s backlogs are trending downward.

Sales tax revenue for local governments in New York State dropped 27.1 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year, according to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Sales tax collections from April through June totaled $3.3 billion, which was $1.2 billion less than last year. Regionally, New York City was clearly hit early and hardest by the pandemic and the effects have lingered longest, with more businesses still unable to reopen due to health concerns, and construction projects delayed or halted. New York City’s second quarter decline of 34.9 percent was the result of deepening declines in April (-23 percent), May (-32 percent) and June (-46 percent). Because the federal government postponed the income tax payment due date from April 15 to July 15, that the big bump of tax payments expected in April, which generally represent about 13 to 15 percent of state income taxes, won’t count toward this fiscal year but the following one.

So, with tax revenue down, we can anticipate state and capital spending cuts. Unfortunately, 2021 will likely be a slower year than 2020 for construction projects, and contractors will probably see some softening of activity as early as the fourth quarter, regardless of what part of the state your business is concentrated in. As one of the most dense urban areas in the world and as a revenue powerhouse, the economic health of New York City is often the largest indicator of what the rest of the state can anticipate. Our current concern is that a lack of a larger federal government intervention would lead to New York lagging behind other states in its recovery effort. The MTA needs a $12 billion cash infusion to offset losses due to the coronavirus. If the federal government doesn’t approve aid, massive cuts to staffing and service could be implemented as soon as November. On a local level, we are already feeling project cut backs, with local municipalities being forced to cut back spending because they need to shore up their budgets. As much as we wish we could, our state doesn’t have the ability to print more money: cue the federal government.

What now? We could take a page out of the history books and recreate a domestic program to stimulate the economy on a national scale. You might recall in the 1930’s President Franklin D. Roosevelt enacted The New Deal, a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations to respond to needs for relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression. While it’s unlikely that New York would get specific public works project money handed over, a national initiative isn’t out of the question. The New York City region generates 8% of total U.S. GDP. According to an analysis by SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, New York’s massive economy means the state sends $116 billion more in tax revenues to the federal government than residents receive in benefits and services. Consider also that this is an election year, and whichever candidate becomes president, passing a big infrastructure bill to improve crumbling roadways and bridges across the country would likely gain bipartisan support. While we are optimistic that a big infrastructure deal could get passed, regardless of how the federal government will choose to step in we have to think of this pandemic in terms of a massive natural disaster. The construction industry will feel the aftershock the virus leaves behind even after it recedes. Contractors need to adapt to this reality if they are to survive the storm.

A recent study ranking the worst state infrastructures in the country leaves New York on a rocky road. The study places New York seventh for worst infrastructure in the United States and assigns the state a D grade after putting up a score of 158 out of a possible 400 points. While the number of deficient bridges and roads in poor condition and the cost to update the water system are grim statistics to pour over, this could actually be a saving grace for public works projects over the next three years. Infrastructure issues don’t magically disappear and deterioration does not stop because of an economic slowdown. If the federal government wants to stimulate the economy, it can choose to invest in infrastructure and generate job growth. With interest rates where they are, the New York construction industry represents a prime candidate for a “new deal-esque” stimulus.

We are hopeful that the road we are traveling represents a shorter than historic dip ahead. A massive public works project boost could allow us to reimagine New York’s infrastructure, launch sustainable green technology and position our state for continued future success. We feel optimistic that while 2021 will present its fair share of financial obstacles for New York’s private and public construction projects, 2022 opportunities and growth will rise from the rubble.

Restructuring Your Workflow to Save Money

Women Discussing Manufacturing Plans

We all know that “making it” in manufacturing is tough under the best of circumstances.

When things are booming, it’s hard to keep up. So your team works more. Then, when things are slow, it’s hard to survive. So your team works more. Throw statewide shut downs and a global pandemic in the mix? Well, let’s just say it’s critical for you to be taking a serious look into your current workflow and making proactive plans to save money. The financial decisions you make now can mean the difference between thriving, surviving, or shutting down. Let’s explore some pros and cons of two of your biggest costs: overtime and new hires.

Overtime Pros

Increased Productivity – Overtime can assure your orders stay on time, especially as production ramps up after being shut down for months. Projects sometime require more work than can be squeezed into a 40-hour week, so putting in the extra hours can keep you from falling behind and creating additional shipment delays with your client base.

Greater Employee Incentives – If you can afford the costs, overtime can help your employees earn more money, especially at an extremely challenging economic moment in our state’s history.

Overtime Cons

Employee Burnout – Working too many hours may cause employees to tire of their jobs too quickly, resulting in decreased productivity. A work and home life balance is essential to a happy, healthy employee. In a study about the impact of burnout, 95% of human resource experts acknowledged that burnout and stress sabotage workplace retention.

Unsustainable Long Term –While overtime provides a way to satisfy unexpected spikes in demand, it’s often not financially sustainable for meeting demand that persists. Since employers have to pay workers time and a half or double time for overtime hours, it can be costly to use overtime as a long-term solution to high demand, so assess on a case by case basis.

Now, how about new hires? Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to more than one question, it may be time to consider expanding your workforce and adding new hires instead of relying on stretching overtime policies.

  • Is the company achieving steady growth that can support additional staff?
  • Are current employees working efficiently or are they overworked?
  • Should we restructure roles within the company?
  • Have we had to turn away new business?
  • Are we providing excellent customer service?

According to a recent study, the average cost-per-hire in the manufacturing industry is $5,159.

But still, the initial cost of hiring a new employee is nothing compared to what you can expect to pay later. Consider the additional costs of hospitalizations, workers compensation insurance, retirement plans and paid time off. The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds employer costs for employee compensation averaged $38.20 per hour worked in June 2020. Wages and salaries cost employers $26.17 while benefit costs were $12.04. The average cost for health insurance benefits was $3.18 per hour worked. A benefits package that includes paid vacation and other perks increases your expenses, but it may also reduce turnover.

So what’s the right move for you?

Sitting down and crunching the numbers is the first step to determine what’s right for your business during these extraordinary times. You may be growing exponentially or you may be struggling to keep longtime staff onboard. Each situation in unique and you have to decide what will result in the highest rate of profitability for your business. As always, our dedicated team is standing by ready to help you troubleshoot these challenges and help you make the tough decisions that will help you succeed.

Telehealth: The Transformative Tipping Point

Telemedicine - Doctor on Laptop

If someone told you ten years ago that you’d be having your annual checkup with your family doctor while wearing your favorite sweatpants on the comfort of your living room couch – no audible waiting room music, cold stethoscope or examination table in sight – you probably would have laughed. Now, several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is transforming the way we treat patients and the way we receive healthcare. Like many facets of life, something that once felt foreign and perhaps even impossible is being integrated into daily life, spanning all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. In order to provide the best care to your clients and be prepared for what’s next in health technology, it’s important for you to stay in the know about all things telehealth in New York.

A recent report by The Community Health Care Association of New York State finds 88% of the state’s federally qualified health centers now deliver care remotely, up from just 35% in 2018. Additionally, The New York State Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare data recently found that telehealth comprised 90% of visits and 86% of revenue for behavioral health providers. But what happens when we finally have the pandemic under control and have a widely available vaccine? The reality is, telehealth makes healthcare more accessible and many feel it’s a welcome modern update. Advocacy groups like CHCANYS and The Council are calling on policymakers to make permanent telehealth measures and say doing so will help to address health disparities and barriers to care, aid in preventing avoidable conditions as well as higher costs, and ensure the financial stability of safety-net providers. This past June, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to expand the types of telemedicine services covered under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance. Telehealth advocacy experts recommend that, post-pandemic, the state should continue to support a full range of telehealth modalities, including reimbursement for telephone visits and expanded Wi-Fi and cellular service in urban areas. They also urge keeping telehealth’s use at the discretion of clinicians in collaboration with clients, based on individual patient needs and capacity.

Financially? It more than makes sense. Telehealth visits have been a financial lifeline for providers that reported staggering declines in in-person care as a result of the pandemic and tens of millions of dollars in losses a week in some cases. Many are pushing for elected officials to maximize regulatory flexibility by expanding the list of licensed practitioners allowed to provide such care, not requiring in-person visits before remote visits and investing in workforce training and research to establish where telehealth is most impactful. In response to the unprecedented interest in, and need for, telemedicine access, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) temporarily eased or suspended a number of regulations related to telehealth. It’s no secret that the pandemic has exacerbated the ongoing mental health and substance use crises facing New Yorkers. Thoughtful, innovative combinations of technology and healthcare can serve as a crucial long-term tool.

We still have a long way to go, as a lot of fear and misinformation surrounds this emerging digital practice. An estimated 41% of U.S. adults had delayed or avoided medical care including urgent or emergency care (12%) and routine care (32%), because of concerns about COVID-19 according to the CDC’s most recent data. As we look towards the future of our nation’s health with uncertainty, many maintain the mindset that we must continue to strive to be better and do better. As a country, we have collectively come together in the darkest of days of the pandemic to advocate for patient care and cohesively meld health policy and government – a philosophy many hopes remains for generations to come.