A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association support other findings that telehealth is steadily increasing. The study made a strong case for telemedicine during the pandemic period where it reported that the NYU Langone health systems saw a dramatic spike in urgent virtual care visits, up by 683%, and non-urgent virtual care visits, up by 4,345% from March 1st – April 30, 2020. Even before the pandemic, however, telehealth was gaining ground, being driven by healthcare providers and consumers alike.
Data from Americawell.com found that 30% of healthcare executives consider telemedicine a top strategic priority and that 65% of patients are willing to use telemedicine for virtual visits with their primary care physician. In an even stronger show of their support for telemedicine, an estimated 50 million Americans are willing to switch primary care providers in order to access virtual visit options.
Reducing Unnecessary Emergency Room, Urgent Care and Doctors Visits
There are even more compelling reasons in support of telehealth. Did you know that 75% of all doctors, Emergency Department and Urgent Care visits are either unnecessary or pose a risk for the patient? (Source: www.healthx.com) Curtailing these unnecessary visits also represents significant cost savings for plan sponsors and patients. Providers who offer telehealth services typically do so via easy to use secure video platforms like Zoom or Skype. Plan sponsors can also access even more robust telehealth solutions that integrate both nurse helplines with a telehealth platform which are readily accessible on a 24/7 basis using a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone. These fully integrated platforms are the next generation in telemedicine and represent the greatest benefits to parties on the healthcare continuum from patient and plan sponsors to providers.
From U.S. Hospitals to Medicaid and Medicare Programs
The American Hospital Association (AHA) is a strong proponent of telehealth. It reported that 76% of U.S. hospitals currently are connecting with their patients and consulting practitioners using a telehealth option; either video or another technology platform. The AHA has come out advocating for the expansion of hospital’s use of “high quality and innovative telehealth services.” Specifically, the AHA is advocating for:
- Expansion of Medicare coverage and The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) inclusion of telehealth waivers in all of its demonstrations, as well as CMS’ adoption of a more flexible approach to adding new telehealth services to Medicare;
- Resolution of legal and regulatory challenges hindering the provision of telehealth services;
- Additional federal research into the cost-benefits of telehealth; and
- Improved access to broadband technology for rural areas through an improved Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Rural Health Care Program
Telehealth Projected to Grow
The management consulting firm of Frost & Sullivan projected that the demand for telehealth services in the United States would increase by over 60% in 2020, and the telehealth market would experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 38% over the next five years. Clearly, the use of telehealth services will also be a function of it being priced properly so that all workers can afford the co-pays where involved. Some telehealth services require no co-pays, while others range from $10 per call to upwards of $40 and $50 per call depending on the plan. Finding the right balance that supports both patient care and cost is the key.