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Telehealth

Evolving the way we receive care

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In a COVID-19 world, the demand for non-contact care has offset concerns around using telehealth technologies. Combined with several changes to telehealth policy, coverage and level of adoption to address the pandemic, telemedicine has become an accepted way to deliver care in less than two months.

To date, providers all over the country have turned to telehealth as a means of survival and as a safe way to give their patients continuity of care. Payers are covering these services to keep their members healthy and avoid more costly services down the line.

The increase in legislative flexibility and funding to support the use of telehealth technology is challenging and changing the entire healthcare value chain. These changes are likely to endure, creating the opportunity to expand the utilization and application of telehealth.

As we collectively work our way through this unprecedented time of change, two defining questions emerge:

  1. how can we leverage the unique capabilities of telehealth to transition back to “steady state” healthcare delivery?
  2. once there, what steps can we take to ensure telemedicine remains an integral part of our healthcare ecosystem?

A seismic shift in healthcare

COVID-19 is catalyzing the evolution of our healthcare system, paving the way for telemedicine to become an integral part of everyday care.

Consumers

ConsumersConsumers are more trusting of telehealth and expect it to become the normal way to triage their healthcare issues at a time and place that’s convenient for them.

Providers

ProvidersProviders are expanding the range of telehealth services to check in on patients more regularly, and provide services in circumstances where it wouldn’t have been possible before.

Technology vendors

Technology vendorsTechnology vendors are developing solutions that can integrate with providers’ existing systems and be the triage platform of choice.

Payers

PayersPayers are actively seeking to expand telehealth capacity and utilization through proactive engagement with providers and members.

Government

GovernmentGovernment is making regulatory and policy changes to ensure patients can continue to access care without overloading the health system. Regulatory changes that reimburse providers at similar levels to in-person visits will increase adoption.

Associations

AssociationsHealthcare associations are helping providers understand how to implement telehealth services safely and effectively.

How can payers and providers maximize the value of telehealth?

For healthcare providers, there’s an opportunity to expand, scale up, and integrate their telehealth offering now. Taking this action would restore demand for services in the short to medium-term, while profitably growing delivery capacity to treat more patients in the longer term.

For payers, there’s an opportunity to ensure members, particularly those who are managing chronic conditions or deferring treatment of acute conditions, continue to receive the care they need in the short- to medium-term while doctors’ offices and hospital services remain suspended. There’s a real financial incentive in ensuring telehealth emerges as a viable, cost-efficient alternative to conventional delivery models.

HELPING PROVIDERS

Providers need to consider how mature their current telehealth offering is and make choices that will enable them to grow and integrate it into their day-to-day practice.

We support providers as they navigate these choices, helping drive end-to-end expansion and optimization of their telehealth service by:

  • developing a strategy and evaluating the business case for expansion
  • assessing the existing service to address any gaps or points of weakness
  • designing and implementing an enhanced service, including vendor selection, technical integration, and change management
  • optimizing the service and ensuring continuous improvement practices are in place for the long-term.

Payers

HELPING PAYERS

Payers need to enable their members and providers to use telehealth where appropriate to ensure patients continue to receive the care they need now, and to move them towards a more cost-efficient delivery model in the long-term.

We support payers as they make key decisions relative to telehealth through:

  • establishing and implementing a provider engagement strategy
  • devolping and executing a member engagement strategy
  • developing and rolling out digital tools that enable both member and provider engagement.

Frequently asked questions

  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth usage had shown a steady increase. During COVID-19, the data shows a dramatic surge in both adoption and utilization. Teladoc reports a spike in video requests to more than 15,000 per day. Perhaps more critically, the number of patients who have utilized telehealth services has also increased, which bodes well for future usage.

  • Yes, beginning with payer reimbursement policies. Payers (most notably CMS) have expanded the breadth of covered telehealth services and increased reimbursement rates to match in-person visits, enhancing their attractiveness to providers. At the same time, governing agencies have relaxed regulations, most notably the requirement that telehealth practitioners be licensed to practice medicine in the state where care is being delivered. While it’s reasonable to assume that these reimbursement changes may be temporary, there’s a chance that the licensure changes may endure, increasing the future viability of telehealth.

  • From 2014 to 2018, telehealth usage grew by over 600 per cent. Yet these services still only accounted for 0.1 per cent of all medical claims. While patient trust and adoption of telehealth has been steadily growing, it’s worth noting this trend isn’t evenly distributed across health consumers. Research shows 31-40-year-olds account for 21 percent of all telehealth claims, and women account for 65 percent.

    While overall adoption of telehealth has been relatively low (less than 10 percent of patients have used these services), satisfaction is high. The average satisfaction score for telehealth services is 851 (on a 1,000-point scale) and is 900 or higher among 46 percent of telehealth users. These satisfaction scores are among the highest of all healthcare, insurance and financial services industry studies conducted by J D Power.

    These high customer satisfaction levels, coupled with the growing numbers of health consumers who have used telehealth services, bodes well for growth after the current pandemic, and presents an opportunity for payers and providers alike.

  • More than 75 percent of U.S. hospitals are using or implementing a telehealth program. As telehealth becomes more common in hospitals across the country, physicians have demonstrated an increasing willingness to adopt these services. AmWell’s 2019 survey of physicians indicated that 69 per cent of physicians would be willing to use telehealth, up from 57 per cent in 2015. However, use of telehealth varies significantly across specialty and demographic characteristics, and while responses point to advantages felt by physicians, key obstacles remain, including:

    • uncertainty around reimbursement
    • questions about clinical preparedness
    • poor leadership support.
  • While telehealth has historically been offered as an adjunct to traditional care, delivered by dedicated telehealth clinicians, physicians who have used telehealth say they feel it:

    • improves patients’ access to care
    • contributes to a more efficient use of time for doctors and patient
    • enables high quality communication with patients.

    Perhaps more importantly, telehealth offers an opportunity to match patients with a telehealth-enabled practitioner that is uniquely suited to their behavioral profile and preferred approach to health and wellness. Research suggests that achieving the proper PCP-patient match has a significant impact on health outcomes, and the flexibility that telehealth provides in this regard (particularly in light of the relaxation of licensure regulations) suggests that it may yield significant value on this front.

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Telehealth is happening now

Given patients’ shifting perceptions of telehealth, it’s unlikely to disappear or be minimized. People now trust in the remote caregiver and the treatment plan that follows. And they’re beginning to expect the convenience telehealth brings. It’s the force of this expectation that will solidify telehealth as a tier-1 support for triage. Patients experiencing physical or mental discomfort can now be taken care of from a distance, diagnosed, and assured of the right steps to take. It’s happening now.

Our team

We have deep industry knowledge and delivery experience across the broadly defined healthcare ecosystem, spanning payers, providers, life sciences, MedTech, medical associations and government agencies, and the technology providers that support these organizations. More importantly, we have an extensive track record in helping our clients develop and deploy advanced capabilities such as telehealth, in keeping with our mission of bringing ingenuity to life.

Charles Koontz

PA healthcare expert

Charles is a digital transformation expert helping healthcare organizations improve patient outcomes. He brings a deep understanding of client needs and has experience designing innovative solutions.

Nina Miranda

PA healthcare expert

Nina is a healthcare strategist specializing in novel telehealth operating models, data-driven analyses, as well as interventions and SOPs that support long-term sustainability.

Nick Semple

PA healthcare expert

Nick helps clients apply technology to achieve the triple aim of better access to healthcare, improved outcomes and reduced costs. His deep expertise spans across strategy, operations, sourcing and end-to-end service management across applications and infrastructure.

Ritu Patwari

PA healthcare expert

Ritu is an economist with extensive experience enabling clients to transform services and operations in response to complex and changing market environments. She has a proven track record driving buy-in for large innovative transformations.

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