Telehealth has definitively marked its territory in the healthcare space since the onset of COVID-19. In this blog, we’ll take a look at telehealth growth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as what its future looks like as practices begin to develop a “new normal” for patient care.
Initial Growth of Telehealth, Pre-COVID-19
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, telehealth virtual visits had begun to witness steady growth as payers widened reimbursement offerings and patients demanded a more convenient healthcare experience. Below is a map of what telehealth parity looked like prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 70% of U.S. states had some form of telehealth parity in place. Early adopters of a telehealth solution leveraged the solution to convert appointments for chronic disease management, medication management, on-call provider interactions, and more into telehealth virtual visits. This emerging technology also provided a much-needed answer to today’s patient demand for accessible and convenient healthcare. A 2017 survey by the Advisory Board confirmed this much-needed, patient-friendly solution by publishing a report indicating that 77% of consumers would consider seeing a provider virtually.
Telehealth Recommended by the CDC to Mitigate Spread of COVID-19
As early reports of COVID-19 began to hit the United States, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began to recommend the use of telehealth virtual visits as a pre-emptive approach to direct patients to appropriate care based on their medical needs. As social distancing rules were implemented nationwide to lessen the spread of the pandemic, practices quickly realized the need to seek an alternative solution in order to maintain cash flow and provide patient care. Nearly overnight, telehealth virtual visits became the” new normal”.
Loosened Restrictions for Telehealth During COVID-19 Pandemic
Since the onset of COVID 19, restrictions on telehealth virtual visits and how providers can deliver care to patients have been loosened. The Center for Connected Health Policy continues to update telehealth coverage policies here. A few of these updated policies include:
- Removal of rural and site limitations.
- Expansion of eligible services provided via telehealth virtual visits.
- Visit this CMS Site for a list of these service codes.
- Clarification on the meaning of telehealth services during COVID-19.
- Telehealth virtual visits offerings for new patients.
Telehealth’s Role in Your Practice Post COVID-19
Since the onset of COVID-19, many telehealth solutions have flooded the marketplace as a result of CMS’ loosened restrictions. These solutions have solved the short term problem of allowing practices to remain open and see a segment of patients that require immediate care, per CMS’ new guidelines. However, as the nation and the healthcare industry look toward returning to a new normal, it is our opinion that the longevity of these pop-up telehealth solutions will be tested. We recently hosted a webinar providing clients with strategies and tips for getting back on track after COVID-19. Among our list of recommendations, we shared the following considerations for determining telehealth’s future in your practice:
- Does my telehealth solution integrate dynamically with my workflow moving forward as a major aspect of care delivery? Consider the following areas:
- Patient consent/treatment authorization
- Which encounter types (or pieces of the encounter) can be moved to a virtual format to minimize patient exposure while providing the highest accessibility of care? Consider the following visit types:
- Chronic disease management
- Medication management
- Routine follow-up visits
- Reviewing test or lab results
- On-call provider interactions
- Patient education
- Geographically dispersed patients
- Am I ready to meet patient expectations for the use of telehealth after COVID-19?
- Is my telehealth solution user-friendly (does it require downloading an app)?
- Does my telehealth solution allow my patient to complete intake questions before the appointment?
- Can my telehealth solution track patient satisfaction (post-visit surveys)?
- Am I ready to expand Telehealth Virtual Visits utilization across my entire practice as I work toward managing a full appointment schedule?
- Does my telehealth solution integrate with my appointment schedule?
- Does it allow me to incorporate other clinical team members into the visit?
For more considerations regarding the use of telehealth in a post COVID-19 healthcare landscape, register here for our next webinar, Getting Your Practice Back on Track After COVID-19.
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE BASED ON FUTURE GUIDANCE FROM THE SOURCES CITED AND/OR OTHER MANAGING AGENCIES. TSI DOES NOT REPRESENT, OR INTEND TO PROVIDE, LEGAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE ON THE SUBJECT MATTER DISCUSSED, OR ON WHETHER THIS INFORMATION MAY OR MAY NOT BENEFIT YOUR PRACTICE. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT: https://cms.gov