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Telehealth Is Here to Stay

Image courtesy of Anja Schaefer / Alamy Stock Photo IMG_2022-11-8-103350.jpg
Chartis and Kythera Labs released a study that shows the impact of telehealth and its role going forward.

Telehealth has become a permanent fixture of healthcare. An analysis by Chartis and Kythera Labs shows telehealth now accounts for 10% of all outpatient visits, compared to 1% prior to the pandemic.

"Telehealth usage stabilizing around 10% indicates that providers have found real value in the modality and are actively choosing to utilize it more than before the pandemic. In the future, we expect providers to uncover additional use cases in how they deliver care virtually and impact in how that virtual care is experienced," said Chartis Principal Bret Anderson. "Our analysis of more than 400 million claims over more than two years is intended to equip provider organizations with useful benchmarks for adoption and better inform their ongoing planning efforts."

Key areas of telehealth adoption emerging trends include:

Demographic Trends: Younger adults (18–44) are the most frequent utilizers of telehealth, accounting for 15% of total outpatient visits. Older adults (65+) are the least frequent users, accounting for just 5% of total outpatient visits. This suggests that the current telehealth user experience does not meet patient needs for the 65+ population.

There's also an inverse relationship between the level of linguistically diverse households within a geographic region and telehealth adoption. Geographic regions with the lowest percentages of English-only speakers have the highest relative telehealth utilization rates (13% of all outpatient visits). Consequently, providers should be mindful to accommodate patients with diverse language backgrounds and make telehealth visits accessible to those populations.

Geographic Trends: There are pockets of sustained adoptions on both coasts and through parts of the Midwest, which may be partially influenced by state-level regulations making telehealth adoption more favorable in those areas. The highest and lowest adoption states in 2022 are:

Highest:

Hawaii: 22%

California: 20%

Washington, DC: 19%

Lowest:

Alabama, Alaska, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee: 6%

Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota: 5%

Iowa: 4%

From a policy perspective, 21 states currently have payment parity, and there appears to be a correlation between payment and telehealth utilization. The average 2022 utilization rate for states with payment parity is 11%, compared with 9% for states without it. Most states with high adoption tend to have a payment parity policy to help drive utilization.

Clinical Trends: Behavioral health remains the leading specialty in telehealth adoption, with 57% of all outpatient visits delivered via telehealth with no signs of drop-off. Primary care (10.1%) and medical specialties (5.8%) are consistently integrating telehealth into their care models and seeing sustained usage of telehealth as well.

 

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