Many practices, maybe even yours, were quick to adopt telehealth visits in 2020 due to the pandemic. It was a hurdle, but a necessary one to jump in order to drive practice visits, lower the risk of transmission, and to continue providing care to patients. Now, as our country begins to “move past” the pandemic with more and more individuals receiving vaccinations… what does this mean for telehealth? Does virtual care still hold a spot in practices? What value does telehealth provide in a practice setting? We answer all of that, and more, below.
Telehealth Before the Pandemic & Now
Prior to the pandemic there were MANY restrictions on the usage of telehealth for providers and patients. To put this into perspective, before 2020 it is estimated that only 15,000 Medicare beneficiaries took part in virtual care. After some of these restrictions were lifted in order to reduce people gathering and limit exposure risk, that number grew substantially reaching 24.5 million enrollees. Now, outside of Medicare beneficiaries, those covered by private insurance companies also increased tenfold by up to 3,000%.
While the numbers alone tell us how vital telehealth was during the pandemic, it was widely used due to lack of restrictions and necessity during a public health emergency. At the moment, restrictions regarding telehealth are still lax and it is hard to say when they will be more stringent. This could cause a real drop off in usage across the healthcare industry, but it is unlikely that the solution will go away. Due to its convenience, accessibility, and the opportunity for practices to access new revenue streams, telehealth is likely to stick around.
What value does virtual care hold in a practice setting?
While patients are widely able to reenter their provider’s waiting room, it can’t be ignored that telehealth still offers broader access to care than standard office visits. With the United States experiencing a physician shortage in many specialties, like behavioral health, being able to provide care remotely enables a provider to reach more patients wherever they are.
Virtual care can also provide value in the following ways to practices…
- Reduces cost of overhead as doctors can now efficiently provide care outside of the office
- Patients do not need to be in the waiting room which eliminates cost of cleaning, providing chairs/magazines, etc.
- Improve patient satisfaction by enabling them to receive care without leaving their home
- Virtual care also saves them money in gas or the hassle of finding transportation if they don’t have their own
- Boost practice efficiency by improving clinical workflows
This is not an exhaustive list and clearly the most noteworthy during 2020 was the ability to limit the spread of diseases/illnesses. Now that we are in 2021 and vaccines are widely available, how does virtual care continue to drive practice value? The same way it did in 2020. Telehealth is still a valuable tool for practices and provides the SAME benefits.