Whereas the pandemic was the impetus for better utilization of telehealth throughout the well being care continuum, it is protected to say that as a result of comfort and advantages it presents to sufferers and suppliers, telehealth is right here to remain.
Earlier than COVID-19, telehealth visits solely accounted for 4% of complete appointments, in response to our current analysis, which evaluated telehealth utilization throughout 93.7 million sufferers in our athenaOne community. Within the first half of 2022 when many sufferers returned to receiving in-person care, digital visits nonetheless accounted for 8.9% of complete appointments – a comparatively minor lower from the 12.1% we noticed on the pandemic’s peak. Along with large-scale utilization, it is usually evident that telehealth is being leveraged for a variety of use circumstances. The community analysis, along with a survey we commissioned by way of Dynata of two,000 U.S. sufferers, each discovered attention-grabbing patterns in utilization for behavioral well being, power care, in addition to variations in adoption throughout race and gender.
Regardless of variations in adoption and utilization, one factor is obvious: Telehealth will stay a pivotal element of well being care supply now and within the years to come back.
Behavioral and psychological well being
Telehealth proved to be a particularly useful software for these looking for psychological well being care in the course of the pandemic. Actually, 25% of Dynata survey respondents shared that they turned to telehealth for a psychological well being appointment, whereas 23% indicated they have been extra prone to search out psychological well being help as a result of of the provision of telehealth. New psychological well being diagnoses of hysteria and despair occurred 1.8 occasions extra throughout telehealth appointments in comparison with in-person appointments, in response to our community information. The metrics are encouraging. They display that telehealth is bettering entry to psychological well being care by giving sufferers the chance to attach extra seamlessly with their suppliers and achieve this extra continuously. Moreover, the findings counsel that telehealth has the potential to reduce societal stigma and private anxieties round utilizing psychological well being care companies. One other notable discovering was that along with behavioral well being, major care and pediatrics have been the almost certainly specialties to undertake telehealth. This factors to the concept telehealth could be a cornerstone to care in major care practices that provide psychological and behavioral well being companies to their sufferers. In the end, the pandemic pushed telehealth utilization to the forefront out of necessity, however now it’s solidifying its place within the care continuum by filling an unmet want for psychological well being care.
Telehealth know-how has additionally emerged as a important software for power care administration and for communication between sufferers and suppliers. Actually, after adjusting for different affected person traits, our community information exhibits that sufferers with power situations are 35% extra prone to undertake telehealth than sufferers with out power situations, and survey respondents stated they’re 56% extra doubtless to make use of it shifting ahead. That is essential, as a result of with extra frequent touchpoints, chronically unwell sufferers can obtain extra constant care for his or her situations.
Not solely are chronically unwell sufferers speaking with their suppliers, however they’re additionally leveraging telehealth on a extra continued foundation versus one-off visits. Almost 1 / 4 (23%) of Dynata survey respondents reported that their telehealth visits have been for repeatedly scheduled power care appointments and 9% stated they turned to telehealth for advert hoc appointments to handle considerations associated to their power situation.
General, the findings means that telehealth can function an environment friendly care supply software, serving to major care suppliers join with their chronically unwell sufferers extra usually. This in flip drives higher well being care outcomes and doubtlessly reduces affected person reliance on emergency rooms or pressing care settings – permitting for suppliers to concentrate on high-priority sufferers.
Variations in adoption and utilization based mostly on race and gender
To higher perceive how we will advance well being fairness as an trade, we additionally want to grasp the variations in telehealth utilization throughout demographics. Most notably, we discovered there’s a really nuanced image to telehealth utilization throughout totally different races. Telehealth presents a possibility to enhance care coordination, present extra steady entry to inexpensive care, and permit care groups to higher collaborate and understanding how totally different races and genders leverage telehealth will assist improve care over time and enhance well being fairness.
For instance, our community information analysis discovered that Black and Hispanic sufferers have been 20% extra doubtless to make use of telehealth companies than White sufferers. Nevertheless, the White affected person inhabitants is utilizing it in a a lot totally different means. When White sufferers use telehealth, they’re more likely to make use of it within the context of a steady relationship with a supplier, reminiscent of their major care physician. For instance, a White affected person sees their physician in-person to handle their diabetes after which has a follow-up appointment by way of telehealth. When Black and Hispanic sufferers use telehealth, it’s extra usually within the context of an advert hoc appointment for an pressing concern, for instance, a sinus an infection. Hispanic sufferers are 8% much less doubtless to make use of telehealth with a devoted supplier and Black sufferers are 12% much less doubtless. This demonstrates that whereas telehealth is bettering entry to look after minority sufferers, it’s not but fixing care continuity, which we all know is extraordinarily impactful in bettering well being outcomes for all.
Along with race, there are outstanding gender variations round telehealth utilization for each sufferers and suppliers. In keeping with our community information, each male sufferers and suppliers have been much less doubtless to make use of telehealth than feminine sufferers and suppliers. Youthful, feminine physicians training major care and behavioral well being have been almost certainly to undertake telehealth. Male physicians have been 24% much less prone to leverage telehealth, whereas male sufferers have been 15% much less prone to attend a telehealth appointment. We’ve seen comparable gender patterns emerge in earlier analysis. For instance, feminine physicians spend extra time on affected person appointments and on after-hours affected person care documentation than male physicians.
As well being leaders consider telehealth adoption and continued integration of the know-how inside their practices, it’s essential they think about not solely how their affected person inhabitants is leveraging telehealth, but additionally their ecosystem of clinicians. They’ll then decide methods telehealth could be leveraged to create and construct stronger provider-patient relationships. Telehealth know-how can drive higher outcomes and fill care gaps when used as an extension of in-person visits because it dietary supplements high-quality in individual care with extra frequent touchpoints.
What the long run holds for telehealth adoption and utilization
As telehealth is additional built-in into the care continuum, it’s doubtless that it’ll proceed to claim its place as an extension of in-person care quite than a alternative. Continued analysis round adoption and utilization will probably be key to higher perceive how physicians and sufferers are benefiting from the know-how (and nuanced areas on how it may be improved for optimum affect throughout the continuum.) The advantages of telehealth will far outlast the preliminary affect of the know-how in the course of the peak of the pandemic and, shifting ahead, we’ll proceed to see telehealth thrive as a pivotal software in advancing look after all.
Jessica Sweeney-Platt is vice chairman for analysis and editorial technique for athenahealth. She is a enterprise chief with 23 years’ expertise in managing analysis groups and govt training choices and subject material skilled in hospital-physician integration, well being care technique and tradition change.