The COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition Telehealth Impact Study Work Group recently released the results of the “Telehealth Impact Study.” The study found that both patients and providers were satisfied with telehealth during COVID-19, and plan to continue using it.
Background on the Telehealth Impact Study
The study explored the rapid growth of telehealth in the US during COVID-19. Both patients and providers responded to the 48 question survey. The physicians and other qualified healthcare professionals survey was completed in August 2020, while the patient survey was completed in February 2021.
To understand providers’ experience with telehealth, 1,594 clinicians across the US were surveyed. The findings highlight the positive telehealth experiences providers had with telehealth, and their plans for telehealth use beyond the PHE.
Of the clinicians surveyed:
- 75% indicated that telehealth enables them to provide quality for COVID-19 care, acute care, chronic disease management, hospital/ED follow up, preventative care, and mental/behavioral health
- 60% reported that telehealth improved the health of their patients
- 80% conducted live, interactive virtual visits with patients
- 68% plan to increase telehealth in their practices
- 61% indicated that telehealth improved the cost of care for their patients
- 56% indicated that telehealth improved the financial health of their practices
To understand patients’ experience with telehealth, 2,007 patients across the US were surveyed. Each patient received at least one telehealth visit during the pandemic, many had more. The findings indicate high levels of satisfaction with telehealth, and optimistic expectations for use of telehealth and telemedicine beyond the public health emergency (PHE).
Patients surveyed used telehealth during the pandemic for preventative, chronic, and acute condition management.
Of the patients surveyed:
- 78% indicated that they received telehealth services from their own provider
- 81% felt that telehealth provided them with a sense of access and continuity of care
- 71% felt a personal connection with their provider during the telehealth visit
- 83% felt the patient-physician communication was strong with telehealth
- 79% indicated that they were satisfied with their telehealth visit
- 76% indicated that telehealth removed transportation as a barrier
- 65% no longer had to take time off work for doctor’s appointment
- 67% had less costs related to their telehealth visit vs. an in-person visit
- 79% found it easy to use the technology
What’s Next for Telehealth
While these findings are certainly positive, it’s essential to consider the challenges that remain. Providers pointed to reimbursement, interoperability, and telehealth usability as key challenges that must be addressed.
To address these barriers, it’s crucial that:
- Congress acts to ensure telehealth services remain covered beyond the PHE
- Telehealth vendors provide the necessary support and education to both clinicians and patients, to ensure utilization and reduce the barrier of digital literacy
- Interoperability continues to be a priority - reducing double documentation through EMR integrations is a must for telehealth to be viable
If all stakeholders work together—including providers, telehealth vendors, congress, CMS, patients, caregivers, etc.—widespread access to telehealth and its benefits will be possible.