- Despite growing adoption of telehealth by providers, many consumers still don’t know how to access those services or if their insurer pays for them, according to a new Avizia white paper.
- The 2017 analysis involved more than 800 providers and consumers and found eight in 10 consumers were unsure of or had never heard of telehealth services. A reason people often gave for not using telehealth was concern about how comfortable they would feel with a virtual visit (46%).
- Those patients who use telehealth, however, would use it again, citing benefits such as convenience (59%), shorter wait times (55%), cost savings due to less travel (43%) and increased access to specialists (25%).
Providers, on the other hand, are embracing telehealth and doing so primarily to expand patient access to care. In 2017, 70% of providers said access was the chief reason they were considering telehealth, up from 40% last year when the most popular response was meeting consumer demand.
Of those health systems offering telehealth, 72% said stroke is their top use case. Utilization also was high for behavioral health (41%) and intensive care (20%).
Major barriers to telehealth adoption include reimbursement (41%), program costs (40%) and provider resistance (22%). Patient resistance was cited by 11% of providers, down from 15% in 2016.
The findings reflect other recent studies. In a Reach Health survey earlier this year, 36% of healthcare systems said their organization has an enterprise approach to telehealth and 25% said they were moving from a departmental to enterprise approach. In a more recent survey by Foley & Lardner, three-fourths of healthcare organizations were planning to offer telehealth services in 2017.
Among those embracing virtual care is NewYork-Presbyterian. Since launching its OnDemand suite of digital health services in July 2016, the system has added telehealth options for routine care, urgent care and pediatric care. Last week, NYP announced it is partnering with Walgreens to offer store-based telehealth services. The first self-service kiosk is already up and running in Manhattan.
In addition to improving convenience and access, telehealth can help hospitals lower costs. In an NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association analysis, telehealth services were associated with an annual cost savings of $20,841 for hospitals, plus per-facility savings of $5,718 in travel expenses and $3,431 in lost wages for patients. The growth in telehealth availability is impacting Medicare as well. Virtual care payments in 2016 totaled $28,748,210 versus $22,449,968 the prior year. The number of telehealth claims also rose from 372,518 in 2015 to 496,396 in 2016.