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Telehealth utilization is 38 times higher now than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The early COVID-19 pandemic saw a push toward virtual care and telehealth options, but as restrictions come to an end and much of the country enters a new normal a new analysis says the shift may be permanent.
The consulting behemoth McKinsey & Company suggested the telehealth market could see a $250 billion shift a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An updated analysis found that telehealth use has increased 38 times since before the pandemic began. After a spike to 32 percent of office and outpatient visits taking place over telehealth, that number has now stabilized to between 13 and 17 percent across all specialties.
Patient and physician attitudes toward telehealth also improved during the pandemic after dropping slightly from the peak in spring 2020. Issues affecting attitudes toward telehealth, such as perceptions of the security of the technology, have yet to be addressed but likely will be in the future, according to the analysis.
A good sign for the future of telehealth is that some of the regulatory changes which facilitated use during the pandemic have been made permanent, like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expansion of reimbursable telehealth codes in the 2021 physician fee schedule. It remains to be seen whether other services will lose their waiver status when the public health emergency ends, the analysis says.
Likewise, 2020 saw three times the level of venture capitalist digital health investment than there was in 2017. Additionally, virtual healthcare models and business models have evolved and proliferated moving from just offering urgent care to a range of services including hybrid care, according to the analysis.
To continue the expansion of telehealth, McKinsey recommends: increasing convenience to receive routine care, improving access especially for behavioral health and specialty care, and improving care models and health outcomes particularly for patients with chronic conditions or in need of post-care support.