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Telehealth News Roundup: Virtual Care Beyond COVID-19

Amid increased safety precautions, office closures, and crowded hospitals, many patients turned to telemedicine during the COVID-19 crisis. According to data from McKinsey, telehealth use has increased 38x compared to the pre-COVID baseline.

However, as life gradually returns to normal, what will the future of telehealth look like? Will patient demand for virtual visits remain high, or revert to a preference for in-person office visits? Will facilities and insurance plans continue to support virtual care delivery?

In our monthly news recap, we explore how providers, patients, and the government expect to see telehealth evolve beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The post-pandemic role of virtual care

U.S. News & World Report

The purpose of telemedicine has always been to care for patients where they are, but it took the explosive rise in demand in 2020 to bring that promise to fruition. While demand has leveled off, it remains much higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. As life begins to return to normal, what should patients expect from telemedicine? Experts predict that as much as half of care could be delivered remotely — but much of that depends on if and how government regulations allow for the expansion of telehealth services.

Telehealth flexibilities assured for the bulk of 2022

American Medical Association

The recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act includes a provision that guarantees that patients with Medicare will continue to have access to telehealth services for at least five months after the Biden administration declares an end to the nation’s public health emergency. The flexibility of telemedicine has played a vital role in improving patient access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this legislation makes important strides toward permanent expansion of telehealth coverage.

National telehealth use skyrocketed in Omicron surge

mHealth Intelligence

New data shows that in December 2021, national telehealth use rose by 11.4%. Researchers believe this increase is related to the rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant around the same time period. Prior to this, telehealth use had showed a slight decline over the second half of 2021 as COVID-19 cases dropped. The same research reveals some of the diagnoses that make up the largest portion of telehealth claims, such as mental health conditions, acute respiratory disease, and hypertension.

Telehealth use will outlive the pandemic for healthcare providers, survey shows

UnitedHealth Group

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many healthcare providers are considering whether and how to continue offering virtual care. According to a recent Optum survey, 93% of providers indicate they want to continue to utilize telemedicine. For many providers, telehealth offers added convenience, although it also comes with frustrations, mainly around setting patient expectations and managing the technical details of virtual visits.

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