As you wind down the current Open Enrollment Period, it’s never too early to start thinking about what the new year will bring. Experts are predicting telehealth to be a top industry trendsetter in the coming year.
If you’ve been living on a Google-free island for the past couple of years, you might not understand why the phrase “cat zoom lawyer” has become a breakout search term in the last 12 months.
If you’re like most of us, though, you know just how real the struggle is, and exactly the video all those Google searchers are looking for. It’s one of the funniest Zoom fails of all time, and a cautionary tale for any professional who now includes at least one video call in their average work day.
No mere relic of the Pandemic, conducting business via live stream has become commonplace. And it’s not just high-tech companies getting in on the act either—medical providers and their patients are increasingly opting for “televisits” over in-person check-ups.
And that insurance trend shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Televisits On the Rise
Even though doctors’ offices had largely re-opened by the spring of 2020, providers and patients across the country have continued to embrace the comfort and convenience of virtual care, and at ever-greater numbers.
In November of this year, The Massachusetts Association of Health Plans released the results from a virtual care study that covers the period of January 2019 to January 2021. Conducted by Harvard researchers and based on data provided by seven Massachusetts health plans, preliminary findings from the study show:
- In January of 2021, 128,400 out of 331,900 medical visits reported by the insurers were conducted via telehealth, amounting to about 39%
- 18% of specialist visits for Medicare patients were conducted remotely
- 49% of primary care visits for commercially insured patients were via telehealth
More broadly, a McKinsey report released this year shows that telehealth use across the country has stabilized at levels 38X higher than before the Pandemic, and adoption is increasing with consumers and across multiple medical specialties.
The American Medical Association (AMA) says that dermatologists, urologists, pediatricians, and cardiologists are among those rapidly adding televisits to their list of patient services. Providers specializing in endocrinology, neurology, and pain management are also leveraging remote patient care in greater numbers.
And it’s not just check-ups that are undergoing an evolution. Emerging technologies currently transforming healthcare delivery include such innovative tools as tele-triage, e-prescribing—even virtual urgent care.
Naturally, these upward digital trends are impacting health insurance coverage as well. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved more than 80 new types of telehealth services in 2020, and commercial carriers ranging from UnitedHealthcare to Cigna launched virtual-first plans this year.
Some of the benefits cited by payers, providers, and patients alike include:
- It’s cost effective. And not just for providers. Virtual appointments also save patients to-and-from transportation costs on doctors visits, as well as any lost wages or PTO associated with being away from work.
- No sneezy neighbors. Let’s face it, waiting rooms can be a virtual petri dish of whatever’s going around. Virtual visits offer a safe space to receive care, especially for high-risk and immunocompromised patients.
- More centered care. Providers who aren’t distracted by the emergency in the next exam room are able to stay more fully focused on the patient in front of them. Also, seeing people in their home environments allows some specialists (think allergists, occupational therapists, etc.) to better assess their patients more holistically.
- Fewer barriers to care. Telehealth visits even the odds for those who face geographic and transportation hurdles in getting access to specialists.
As leading providers and big tech continue to unite in disrupting healthcare, no doubt telehealth will continue to expand and improve in the coming year.
It’s an insurance trend that seems to be here to stay, and one that should be on every agent and broker’s radar in 2022. Quotit’s coast-to-coast coverage includes partnerships with more than 300 of the nation’s leading health insurance carriers, including those who include robust telemedicine offerings.
If you haven’t seen Quotit in action, now’s the time to save the date for your demo.