Long-term virtual care plans evade providers, small executive survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Healthcare executives said their biggest technology challenge during the pandemic has been telehealth, though nearly all have implemented at least workable, short-term fixes, according to a small survey from Klas Research.
  • Remote patient monitoring is still a work in progress for most — only four of the 19 executives surveyed said their organizations currently have a working program. Thirteen said it’s one of the technologies they’ve enhanced the least during the pandemic.
  • Four executives said interoperability was their biggest challenge. Real-time data analytics and surveillance were also cited.

Dive Insight:

The survey’s findings are in line with a July survey from Klas, in which providers reported frantic efforts to adopt new virtual care technology with little time to consider their long-term strategies.

They commonly selected products like Doxy.me and Zoom for quick implementation, and also tried a high number of different providers, according to that report.

According to the August report, 84% of the executives surveyed said they’ve solved their telehealth challenges.

Several mentioned using some of the same consumer-facing products, such as FaceTime, Zoom and Skype, to get telehealth off the ground quickly. Those are suitable for emergency purposes, but “solutions that serve a strategic, long-term telehealth vision are much scarcer,” Klas said.

Such products, from virtual care vendors like Teladoc and Amwell, are attractive to potential clients in the long term because of their scale, privacy protections and broad array of capabilities, but are significantly more expensive than stopgap remedies.

At the onset of the pandemic this spring, the Trump administration changed more than 30 telehealth regulations, spurring widespread adoption among both providers and patients.

CMS started to reimburse for virtual visits on par with in-office visits and raised payments for audio-only visits. CMS now allows more than 135 additional services through telehealth on a temporary basis.

When the public health emergency allowing for those waivers was set to expire in July, HHS extended it 90 days.

CMS’ 2021 physician fee schedule released earlier this month proposes making permanent almost two dozen new telehealth codes, though includes some notable exceptions to the current waivers — including continuing reimbursement for audio-only visits.

Groups like the American Hospital Association have urged HHS to make the telehealth rollbacks permanent and offer more flexibility beyond what’s included in the agency’s proposal.