Telehealth: By the Numbers
In the 1920s, radios were used to communicate medical advice to clinics on ships. Thirty years later, two Pennsylvania physicians exchanged radiologic images through telephone lines. A little more than 20 years ago, the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Alaska Native Health Board created the Village Telemedicine Project to provide telemedicine equipment to four regional hospitals and 20 village clinics to benefit Alaska Native people.
These are only a few examples of the early uses of telemedicine and telehealth. Fast forward to 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, and these technologies have been employed by almost half of healthcare consumers in the United States. Though this number will probably decrease when the novel coronavirus finally abates, more than three-fourths of Americans report that they’re highly or moderately likely to use telehealth in the future.
If you think telehealth use is only a fleeting trend, we have some statistics that might surprise you. For example, tele-visits have doubled in use since 2016, and Frost & Sullivan forecasts a sevenfold growth in telehealth by 2025. By 2026, the global telehealth market size is projected to reach $266.8 billion. Read on for more numerical proof of the technology’s sustainability.
Telehealth has made an unquestionable impact during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many healthcare providers are reporting 50-175 times the number of telehealth visits pre-COVID-19.
- The number of claims for medical services provided remotely via telehealth was more than 8,000 percent higher in April than at the same time last year.
- Telehealth claim lines (individual billed services submitted to insurers for payment) accounted for 13 percent of all medical claims in April, compared to .15 percent in 2019.
- Psychiatric appointments were among the most commonly billed telehealth interventions in April 2020.
- Approximately 74 percent of COVID-19 telehealth users report high satisfaction.
- Almost 60 percent of healthcare providers view telehealth more favorably than they did before COVID-19.
- About 65 percent of healthcare providers who have used telehealth during the pandemic report feeling more comfortable using it.
- According to a survey of hospitals and health system executives by Xtelligent Healthcare Media, 60 percent of respondents plan on continuing to use telehealth after the pandemic.
In addition to boosting practice efficiency and revenue and enhancing patient engagement, telehealth allows physicians and other clinicians to limit no-shows and reduce unnecessary patient admissions and transfers. Perhaps that’s why more and more providers are using it.
- More than half of U.S. hospitals have implemented a telehealth program, and about 60 percent employ remote patient monitoring services.
- Provider adoption of telehealth increased 340 percent from 2015-2019.
- Almost 35 percent of physician practices have adopted telehealth, with two-way video/webcam usage being the most used solution.
- Approximately 76 percent of U.S. hospitals connect with patients and consulting practitioners at a distance through the use of video and other technology.
The U.S. spends more money on healthcare (~$3.6 trillion) than any other developed nation. In most states, healthcare costs are growing faster than median income. Telehealth increases affordability for patients while also improving access to care, especially for residents of rural areas. Plus, most who have tried it have reported positive results.
- Patients have reported that their concerns were resolved 85 percent of the time through telemedicine visits compared to 64 percent for in-office appointments.
- According to an AHA brief titled “Creating a High-value Telehealth Strategy,” 23 percent of consumers have had a virtual visit with a doctor or nurse, and 57 percent of those who had not tried are willing to do so.
- Eighty-eight percent of new telehealth users said they would use it again.
- A survey of 500 U.S. consumers found that 33 percent of respondents would leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access.
- More than 25 percent of Americans and 30 percent of those over the age of 55 say that not having to download any special applications or programs will be key to their continued use of telehealth.
Remember that $3.6 trillion in healthcare spending we just mentioned? Implementing telehealth initiatives might not cut it in half, but it could make a measurable difference.
- A total of 35 states and the District of Columbia have enacted “parity” laws, which generally require health insurers to cover services provided via telehealth the same way they would reimburse for services provided in person.
- Approximately 20 percent of all Medicare, Medicaid, and Commercial OP, office, and home health spend could potentially be virtualized.
- Telehealth solutions deployed for chronic populations can improve total cost of care by 2-3 percent.