For many, telehealth has been the unsung hero of the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling people to continue to receive a semblance of medical care from the safety of their own homes. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, however, as the number of companies trying to cash in on creating telehealth software has exploded, briefly causing chaos and instability in the healthcare sector. The telehealth industry is finally stabilizing at a rate of use 38 times higher than pre-COVID-19.
According to consulting group McKinsey, there is ongoing interest in consumer use of telehealth, with 40-60% of patients expressing interest in virtual health tools when they are available, including virtual-first health plans and digital health insights.
Overall telehealth utilization was a massive 78 times higher in April last year than it was in February, according to a McKinsey analysis. After this initial spike, there was a slight dip in use, but McKinsey says that the telehealth market has largely stabilized since June of last year. The agency went on to state that an estimated $250 billion of the US annual healthcare spending could be digitized.
"Continuing to focus on creating a seamless consumer interface, breaking down silos in care provision (across virtual and in-person) with improved data integration and insights, and proactive consumer engagement will all be important to sustaining and growing consumer use of virtual health as the pandemic wanes," writes McKinsey in its report.
Even doctors have started to look at telehealth more favorably, with 84% of doctors offering telehealth and 57% saying they will continue offering the service as of April 2021. Some doctors are reluctant to continue to expand use of telehealth because of reimbursement rates for such services, with 54% of doctors reporting that they wouldn’t provide virtual care if it was paid at a 15% discount to physical services.
Though CMS has already expanded coverage for telehealth services, with 144 of them being temporarily covered by Medicare, it is unlikely that telehealth visits will be paid at the same rates as in-person visits anytime soon.
McKinsey stated that overall the industry is still experiencing some growing pains, but is likely to work out the kinks as more companies focus on improved data integration and platform capabilities.