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Report: Telehealth Use Remains 38 Times Higher Than Before the Pandemic

July 12, 2021

The use of telehealth remains about 38 times above pre-pandemic levels, representing between 13 and 17 percent of all office and outpatient services across specialties, according to a new report released last week.

A recent McKinsey analysis of claims and survey data indicates that telehealth has transformed beyond “virtual urgent care,” and continues to be widely used for psychiatry and substance use disorder treatment, among other specialties. The pandemic has accelerated the overall interest in telehealth, as providers and patients increasingly turned to virtual options for care, and regulatory changes enabled greater access, the report notes.

Among the key takeaways from the report:

  • Continued adoption: Usage of telehealth has stabilized since June 2020, representing between 13 to 17 percent of office and outpatient visits across all specialties. Psychiatry (50 percent) and substance use treatment (30 percent) have seen the largest uptake in usage
  • Benefits from flexibilities:  Regulatory decisions about where telehealth services can be provided (at home, a provider’s office, via audio) will play a large role in future adoption
  • Digital front door: Between 40 and 60 percent of consumers express interest in broader telehealth solutions—such as a lower-cost virtual-first health plan—but a gap remains between interest in telehealth and actual usage 
  • Favor among physicians:  58 percent of physicians continue to view telehealth more favorably than they did before the pandemic

While interest from patients and providers remains strong, telehealth’s integration into the nation’s overall health care system is still to be determined, the report notes.

“Continuing to focus on creating a seamless consumer interface, breaking down silos in care provision (across virtual and in-person) with improved data integration and insights, and proactive consumer engagement will all be important to sustaining and growing consumer use of virtual health as the pandemic wanes,” the report notes.

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals continue to advocate for new health care models that increase patient access and quality care.

HAP is dedicated to promoting legislation that ensures patients have access to the right care, at the right place, at the right time, including Senate Bill 705. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), clarifies requirements for telehealth providers and insurers and authorizes the regulation of telehealth by professional licensing boards.

For more information, please contact Kate Slatt, HAP’s vice president, innovative payment and care delivery.