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How telehealth can rebuild relationships — and recover revenue lost during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis for our country and our healthcare system — millions delayed or avoided care; personal spending on health services plummeted; and nearly 15 million people lost employer-based health insurance, according to a MarketWatch report from November 2020.

Thus, the past year has created two groups of patients who present both a particular risk and an opportunity for care providers seeking to recover lost revenue post-pandemic:

  1. Patients who have spent the last year un-engaged with their care providers
  2. Patients who lost health insurance and now have new or different options for care

In both cases, the promise of telehealth is to rebuild relationships with patients through a superior patient experience. Telehealth can help care providers by re-engaging patients who have been disconnected or unwilling to seek care over the past year, and it can also help health systems avoid losing patients who are faced with new options as a result of losing or changing their health coverage.

COVID-19 revenue loss

According to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health System Tracker, in April 2020, personal spending on health services plummeted 31.9 percent year over year. Revenue fell across every specialty and in every care setting save for virtual. The Commonwealth Fund found an even steeper 60 percent drop in visits to ambulatory services.

Though the initial drop was without precedent, volumes partially recovered following the initial lockdowns — and by then the opportunity telehealth presented had been revealed. Today, any stigma associated with its use has virtually disappeared; regulatory barriers have fallen; and reimbursement, at least for now, points toward all systems go for telehealth.

Yet more than a year of disruption has resulted in patients who are now seeking options either to catch up on care deferred or establish new relationships with a trusted group of care providers.

Reaching patients who switched insurance

Picture one of the 15 million people who lost their employer-based health insurance last year. The economy is recovering, they are getting back to work, but either at a different job with different insurance, or perhaps as a self-employed independent contractor purchasing insurance from the open market.

Either way, they are re-establishing care relationships and looking to catch up on what they may have deferred, whether that’s an annual care check-up, a consult with a specialist, or an elective surgery.

Their new insurance provider may have contracted with a telehealth platform that employs its own providers — so he or she gets a package in the mail asking them to download a telehealth app and either book an in-person appointment or a virtual care call.

This patient is a potential lost opportunity for hospitals and health systems to keep patients in their community, and on their own telehealth platform.

With more health systems seeking enterprise telehealth solutions, the opportunity is there to extend the patient experience into the home in order to build or rebuild relationships with these patients who have dropped off the radar. Doing so will help health systems recapture some or all of that deferred care from the past year.

This could include:

  • Leveraging telehealth for pre-surgical or post-surgical virtual care visits
  • Extending telehealth into a program to improve care for high utilizers
  • Providing virtual access to specialists in small or rural communities
  • Moving less acute care to a virtual setting to free up hospital capacity

There is no reason health systems need to lose these opportunities to a stand-alone telehealth company with its own specialists and brought in by the insurance provider.

Building a better patient experience

Incorporating an enterprise telehealth solution into the patient journey will not only help recapture lost revenue, it will help health systems build positive, loyal customer bases within their communities.

Post-pandemic, telehealth is no longer a novel care option struggling for acceptance. It’s an expected offering among patients with new, widespread acceptance among providers of all kinds.

Building a seamless patient experience across your entire health system won’t just help bring back patients who you may have lost during the pandemic — it’ll help make those relationships secure through the next disruption, whatever and whenever that may be.

Interested in learning more about the Caregility telehealth platform? Contact us today.

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