A new report from KLAS and the Center for Connected Medicine found that a majority of organizations surveyed were conducting less than 20% of their visits virtually in May and June of this year.
The report, The Intersection of Value and Telehealth, surveyed nearly 100 qualified representatives about their organization’s prioritization and adoption of telemedicine.
“We believe that healthcare institutions should focus on the value telehealth can deliver both to patients and the healthcare system overall,” wrote the report authors.
WHY IT MATTERS
The report sought to identify trends in virtual care utilization amidst the recent months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Certainly, telehealth isn’t likely to go back to pre-pandemic utilization – health systems have too much invested to let these solutions gather dust,” read the report. “And many patients have experienced the ease and convenience of e‑visits and other digital health solutions.
“Yet, as the findings in this report demonstrate, usage has fallen with the reopening of doctor offices and hospitals,” authors added.
CCM and KLAS found that more than 80% of organizations report doing less than 20% of their appointments via virtual care.
In fact, 41% of the organizations surveyed reported conducting less than 10% of their appointments that way.
Furthermore, read the report, “The small handful of respondents currently conducting more than 30% of their appointments virtually often note that their volumes are still inflated by the pandemic and expect their long-term volumes to be lower.”
Still, provider organizations recognize the value of telehealth when it comes to long-term care.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they saw telemedicine as playing a role for chronic care management, and more than half pointed to behavioral health as a use case. By contrast, only 4% saw cardiology as an area for telehealth’s potential expansion.
Researchers also surveyed common barriers to telehealth. About two-thirds pointed to broadband issues and lack of patient access to technology as a major hurdle, especially in rural areas.
The second-largest barrier involved uncertainty about reimbursement, especially considering the continued lack of action by Congress on the issue.
The needs for better telehealth technology and for electronic health record integration also came up for about half of respondents: “The rapid expansion of telehealth solutions during the pandemic left many organizations with poorly developed technology and limited EHR integration,” said researchers.
“Many respondents are exploring options for investment in these areas,” they added.
Other key findings included: more organizations measuring telehealth usage and patient satisfaction, and digital front doors and patient portals serving as the leading telehealth access points.
THE LARGER TREND
Telehealth experienced an unmistakable bump in utilization at the start of the pandemic, with some organizations reporting staggering increases in March and April 2020.
Long-term use is a murkier issue, however.
It’s clear, as KLAS and CCM note, that some patients are interested in continuing to access services. But it will likely take some time before widespread telehealth data becomes available.
In the meantime, advocacy organizations have urged elected officials to take action on behalf of patients who do want to continue using virtual care – and who may not be able to if reimbursement is unavailable.
ON THE RECORD
“It is our hope that the presentation of these data points will spur conversation among leaders and innovators in health care about the state of telehealth technology and what innovations are needed to advance its impact on value-based care,” read the report.