Quarantines, office closures, and public safety concerns regarding COVID19 created a huge demand and sudden surge of telehealth services. Telehealth has long served a small subset of the therapy population, but it’s never been widely reimbursed or accepted by insurers. Now that carriers have started to reimburse and offices are able to evaluate how their patient’s fare with the new therapy model – is it here to stay? Can we go back now?
Virtual care has increased exponentially. FAIR Health has a Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker that found telehealth claims increased from 0.15% in April 2019 to 13% in April 2020 – an increase of over 8,000%! Telehealth use among Medicare beneficiaries alone was up over 11,000% in just one month. This massive increase is leading to a swift industry response – companies are coming forward to offer products that help with telehealth concerns and enhance telehealth experiences. As those products are adopted, virtual care experiences will only get better and more efficient.
Even with the current technology offered, most patients have indicated they are happy with the care they are receiving via telehealth. A study done by Kyruus showed 75% of 1,000 patients indicated they were either very or completely satisfied with their care. The same study found that most patients found it easy to coordinate their care and nearly 75% of patients wanted telehealth to be a standardpart of their care moving forward.
Once something takes hold in the healthcare community and becomes standard, it’s hard to take it back. Some insurers have signaled end-dates for their telehealth coverage, but with COVID19 numbers still on the rise it’s unclear if these end-dates will stick. And, in a bipartisan letter, 38 senators urged for the permanent expansion of telehealth for the Medicare program. If Medicare takes that big step, insurance companies may be hard-pressed to still maintain a strict no-telehealth policy.
As it stands, like most things COVID19, we don’t know yet what the future holds, but the future appears promising for telehealth.