With the convenience it offers to patients and the potential to decrease overhead costs for providers, telehealth is set to maintain a larger position in the U.S. healthcare system even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to an October report from Moody’s Investors Service.
Five report insights:
1. Telehealth offers an opportunity to increase cost efficiency, so the net credit impact will likely be positive. However, the reimbursement landscape for telehealth is still uncertain.
2. Virtual care adoption accelerated during the pandemic after Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers expanded coverage and the government allowed providers to administer telehealth over platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime. Congress will need to make these changes to telehealth coverage in Medicare permanent since they are slated to end once the public health emergency is over.
3. While telehealth use still remains much higher than pre-pandemic levels, there has been a sharp decline in telehealth visits from its peak in March and April due to reopening of states and the gradual return of in-person visits.
4. The investment needed by providers to implement telehealth to scale and remain in compliance with privacy laws is one of the main challenges for telehealth. Other challenges include care for lower-income patients, who may lack widespread access to broadband internet and tech devices, such as smartphones, to participate in virtual visits.
5. For telehealth demand and coverage to remain similar to levels recorded during the pandemic, “healthcare companies will need to make incremental investments in the years to come,” the report states. “Further, widespread adoption of telehealth by patients will likely be a competitive advantage for larger health providers that have the resources and scale to implement it. This is likely to accelerate consolidation in the healthcare industry…”
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