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IXchange Blog

March 2, 2021

Telehealth experiences tremendous growth. But is it here to stay?

Telehealth (Telemedicine) isn’t new by any means. But now, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed Telehealth into a key component of healthcare delivery. Prior to 2020, Telehealth was only used by about 4% of population*. Last year, it went mainstream.

The new prominence is largely due to the necessity of social distancing, and overtaxed clinicians, combined with the fact health insurance companies are now allowing reimbursement. For some providers, the ability to use Telehealth allowed them to continue serving patients when no other choice was available. For HIEs like Healthix, the new Telehealth popularity brought new challenges. With no face-to-face contact between provider and patient, there was no ability to collect written consent from the patient. Understanding the importance of data during the crisis, New York State issued an emergency declaration:
NYS DOH allows informed, verbal, documented consent for telehealth visits in lieu of the current SHIN-NY written consent requirements (10 NYCRR Part 300). This waiver is consistent with the Governor’s State of Emergency declaration and public health authority in situations of public health emergencies.
Will Telehealth continue to be a growing trend? Will it become the “new normal?”  Providers and patients have grown accustomed to the convenience and benefits. It saves transportation time, brings medical care to remote areas, and supplements normal in-office care. However, it will not replace the need for in-person visits. Examinations, procedures, lab tests, vaccines –all require a patient to see their provider. Yet Telehealth can be used effectively to check-in on high-risk patients for follow-ups, education, and for mental health visits which has shown explosive growth. What will happen? It depends on insurers, and state and federal policy. But it’s not likely that this “Tele-genie” will go all the way back into the bottle.   NOTE: All instances of Telehealth access are audited by Healthix to ensure appropriateness and patient privacy.
  • Sept 2019 to Sept 2020: Telehealth claim lines increased 2980% nationally, rising from 0.16% of medical claim lines to 5.07%,  according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker
  • * Telehealth was only used by about 4% of population - Source: nonprofit RAND Corporation