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Telehealth

Note from the editor

Telehealth is one of a select few industries that's seen benefits from the coronavirus pandemic. Before COVID-19 hit the U.S., virtual care use was growing steadily, but only a small fraction of consumers had tried it. Vendors faced barriers like lack of public awareness, regulatory hurdles, low payer reimbursement and wariness from some doctors.

Fast forward to 2020. Almost overnight, telehealth became more of a necessity than a luxury, as a way to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19, ensure patient access to care and allow providers a pathway to recoup valuable revenue from flatlining in-person visits. The Trump administration eased rules, private payers upped reimbursement and providers began offering telehealth in droves as a result.

According to data from EHR giant Epic, telehealth made up almost 70% of all ambulatory visits by mid-April. Before the pandemic, they made up fewer than 0.01%.

Virtual volume began decreasing in June, as states began to lift their lockdowns and more patients returned to in-person care. But public health experts say the nation is entering a potentially dangerous phase of the pandemic as winter looms. Sustained growth in COVID-19 cases could lead to a correlated increase in telehealth visits once again.

The biggest question for the industry is how much virtual care will survive once the pandemic is over. Experts say use is likely to moderate, though newly formed pro-telehealth attitudes are unlikely to die out.

And a recent $18.5 billion megadeal and swelling investor interest in the nascent sector hints at its future size, leading some experts to forecast these trends could converge to create a completely new, digital-first model of care.

Rebecca Pifer Reporter

Reality check: Amazon Care may not be that big of a deal

At the moment, the effort is a more direct threat to employer-facing point solutions, instead of the more comprehensive offerings peddled by entrenched vendors.

Walmart acquires telehealth provider MeMD, upping competition in telehealth space

'Weeks where decades happen': Telehealth 6 months into COVID-19

The nascent industry exploded out of necessity earlier this year, but its future staying power will depend on what insurers are willing to cover and what regulations stay rolled back.

Teladoc-Livongo: Is the first digital health megadeal 'outrageous' or a starter gun for virtual care M&A?

Some experts say the massive snap-up could usher in bigger deals for the virtual care space.

CMS expands telehealth coverage in physician fee rule following Trump executive order

Diving into telehealth: interviews with executives at Teladoc, Amwell and Doctor on Demand

Telehealth vendors scramble to hire doctors as patient volume soars amid COVID-19

Telehealth payment parity in Medicare welcome, but some vendors say it should have come sooner

MedPAC commissioners hint at telehealth policies that may stick post-COVID-19

The latest trends in telehealth

Telehealth is one of a select few industries that's seen benefits from the coronavirus pandemic. Before COVID-19 hit the U.S., virtual care use was growing steadily, but only a small fraction of consumers had tried it. Fast forward to 2020. Almost overnight, telehealth became more of a necessity than a luxury, as a way to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19, ensure patient access to care and allow providers a pathway to recoup valuable revenue from flatlining in-person visits.

included in this trendline
  • Interviews with executives at Teladoc, Amwell and Doctor on Demand
  • Telehealth vendors scramble to hire doctors as patient volume soars amid COVID-19
  • Patients steadily return to in-person primary care as telehealth plateaus