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Is Telehealth Here to Stay?

Patient using telehealth service

Quick look: Telehealth is known for its convenience, but it can also lower overall healthcare costs, boost client productivity, and improve quality of care. After gaining steam during the pandemic, the data is in and it’s clear that telehealth solutions are here to stay. Here’s everything brokers need to know about telemedicine, and why to work with a professional employer organization (PEO) to offer it to clients.

Telehealth solutions are more than just a fad. While its popularity was jumpstarted during the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to evolve and provide affordable, reliable, and high-quality care to patients. Telehealth services have also been shown to cut healthcare costs, increase worker productivity, and more.

As the world embarks into post-pandemic reality, let’s discuss how brokers can benefit from offering telehealth solutions to their clients – and why it makes sense to work with a PEO to provide clients with access to the benefit.

More than just a pandemic solution

The use of telehealth solutions certainly increased during the pandemic – but it’s not going away anytime soon.

In fact, according to a recent report that analyzed data from March 2019 through August 2021:

  • Telehealth solution usage grew from less than 1% before the pandemic began to 13% within the first six months of the virus. As of August 2021, usage rates settled around 8%.
  • While inpatient care has returned to pre-pandemic levels, telehealth visits remain elevated.
  • The number of people who use telehealth solutions to manage a chronic condition has decreased since the pandemic, but remains above pre-pandemic levels.

The report also discovered that telehealth appointments are popular across many demographics. Both men and women, and those living in urban and rural areas, use the solutions at similar rates. Meanwhile, younger patients, like children and young adults, tend to opt for telehealth more than older individuals.

While telehealth usage gained steam during the pandemic, the trend isn’t expected to go away. According to Rock Health’s 2021 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey, nearly three-quarters of telemedicine users expect to continue using the services at the same rate or more in the future.

On a legislative front, dozens of organizations have urged the government to make certain temporary telehealth flexibilities that were permitted during the peak of the pandemic permanent. These include the following protocols:

  • Medicare covers the cost of telehealth visits, including some audio-only visits, for adults 65 and older
  • All Medicare-enrolled providers can bill for telehealth services
  • Medicare covers all telehealth visits that take place in a patient’s home and in medical facilities
  • A requirement that older adults who seek virtual mental health services must have an in-person visit six months after receiving a telehealth visit is postponed
  • Federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics can continue offering telehealth services
  • A requirement that mental health patients must meet a provider in-person before receiving virtual care is waived
  • Occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists can provide telehealth services

It’s clear that investors also agree that telehealth is a permanent fixture in the healthcare industry. Telehealth solutions received an incredible $9.5 billion in venture-capital funding in 2021 (up 111% year-over-year) and globally the market is projected to expand to $636 billion by 2028.

What will telehealth look like?

As investment and participation ramp up, telehealth solutions will continue to evolve.

Telehealth is already shifting from providing purely virtual urgent care to longer-term care and hybrid virtual/in-person care and is becoming integrated with other digital health solutions. For example, mindfulness app Headspace moved into the teletherapy realm by merging with mental health company Ginger.

Virtual services are expanding at traditional healthcare practices, too. According to the aforementioned Rock Health study, 80% of patients say their primary care provider (PCP) offered telemedicine services in 2021 – nearly double the pre-pandemic rate. And professional services network EY found that 60% of PCPs plan to continue offering telehealth services after the pandemic is over.

Reducing costs across the board

Telehealth solutions are known for their convenience – but they can also save clients’ money, making them an attractive option for brokers to offer.

In addition to providing quick, flexible access to quality healthcare, telehealth services can boost company productivity by reducing the number of sick days employees need to take. And by reducing overall healthcare costs, telemedicine can lower costs for employer groups.

One study that analyzed aggregated data from FAIR Health, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals understand healthcare costs, discovered that the average telehealth patient’s healthcare costs fell 61% between January 2020 and February 2021, from $1,099 per month to $425 per month.

Additionally, McKinsey & Company found that telehealth could potentially help patients avoid 20% of all emergency room visits, 24% of medical office visits could be delivered virtually, 35% of home health attendant services could be virtualized, and 2% of all outpatient volume could take place at home. Incredibly, these changes could add up to $250 billion of spend, or 20% of all office, outpatient, and home health spending across Medicare, Medicaid, and privately insured populations.

Better access, better care

For many, finding the time to attend an in-person doctor’s appointment is challenging. Some people can’t afford to take time off work, some people are busy providing care for others, and some people live far from their desired provider. Because of these factors (and more), millions of Americans don’t receive their recommended preventive care services.

Telehealth can solve many of these pain points by providing easily accessible care to anyone, anywhere. In fact, according to the American Medical Association, 75% of clinicians feel telehealth enables them to provide quality care, and telemedicine has been shown to assist underserved patient populations, especially those in rural settings. Putting healthcare in the palm of people’s hands can provide faster and more productive care, save money for everyone involved, and reduce the strain on the healthcare system – all very attractive things for your clients.

Telehealth solutions: a must-have for brokers

The digital healthcare industry is in flux, but one thing is certain: telehealth is here to stay, and it’s experiencing residual popularity from the pandemic that shows no sign of slowing down.

In addition to lowering healthcare costs, boosting employee productivity, and improving care quality, telehealth can also create a new revenue stream for brokers. There’s no better way to take advantage of these benefits and modernize your service offering than to partner with a PEO like ExtensisHR.

ExtensisHR offers a full range of employee benefits that you can provide to your clients, including a medical plan with telehealth access via telephone and videoconferencing, as well as mobile app access that provides on-demand remote medical care. But that’s not all – the telehealth solutions offered through ExtensisHR are also backed by technology, resources, and expertise designed to simplify your clients’ administration, compliance, and support.

Looking to add telehealth solutions to your portfolio? Contact the benefits experts at ExtensisHR today.

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