Future of telehealth for health systems depends on infrastructure and analytics

July 19, 2021, 11:00:00 PM

McKinsey expects a proliferation of innovative tech-enabled care delivery models that will accelerate the adoption of value-based care.

Source:

Healthcare Finance

Future of telehealth for health systems depends on infrastructure and analytics

Author:

Nathan Eddy

A new McKinsey report indicates consumers see telehealth as an important modality for their future needs: Around 40% of surveyed consumers said they would continue to use telehealth going forward, up from 11% using telehealth prior to COVID-19.

Between 40% and 60% expressed interest in a set of broader virtual health solutions such as a "digital front door" or a lower-cost virtual-first health plan.

"For healthcare organizations, the question about what investments to make may depend on what infrastructure and analytics they already have, and how virtual care and telehealth can augment that to provide efficient and high-quality care," McKinsey partner Oleg Bestsennyy told HealthcareFinanceNews.

Telehealth can help patients avoid unnecessary ER visits and help hospital systems extend access to services to different facilities and geographies, increasing the number of patients they are able to serve locally.

For example, coupling remote patient monitoring devices with telehealth technologies, member engagement applications and human coaching may help an organization manage certain chronic conditions more efficiently.

"Payers can also apply telehealth to improve proactive, preventive care for members that may have transportation difficulties or time constraints for in-person doctor appointments –this proactive care may potentially lead to reduced avoidable exacerbations such as unplanned ER visits down the line," Bestsennyy said.

WHY THIS MATTERS

A year ago, McKinsey, a consulting firm, estimated that up to $250 billion of U.S. healthcare spend could potentially be shifted to virtual or virtually enabled care. As telehealth evolves, payers and providers will have to examine more closely new business models to fully realize the potential of virtually enabled care models to improve access, quality, and affordability of healthcare.

"We expect a proliferation of innovative tech-enabled care delivery models, some of which will hopefully lead to improved quality of care and better outcomes," Bestsennyy said. "Those innovation leaders that achieve better outcomes may be more willing to take on outcomes-based risk and to potentially accelerate the adoption of value-based care models."

THE LARGER TREND

Investment in virtual care and digital health more broadly has skyrocketed, with three times the level of VC investment in digital health in 2020 compared to 2017. The total venture capital investment into the space in 2020 totaled $14.1 billion, twice the investment in 2019 ($8.2 billion).

The use of telehealth surged during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers and providers sought ways to safely access healthcare. Since the initial emergence of COVID-19, telehealth use has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic, according to the report.

This change was enabled by increased consumer and provider willingness to use telehealth, and regulatory changes enabling greater access and reimbursement.

The largest telehealth adoption based on percent of outpatient and office visits claims has been for mental health including psychology (50%) and substance use (30%), followed by endocrinology (17%) and rheumatology (17%).

Of the office visits and outpatient care that were projected to be done virtually last year, 70% are being done virtually.

ON THE RECORD

"As the investment into virtual health companies continues to grow at record levels, so does the pressure on the companies within the ecosystem to innovate and find winning models that will provide sustainable competitive advantage in this quickly evolving space," the report concluded. "This is good news for consumers and patients, as we are likely to continue seeing increased innovation in the virtual care delivery models."

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