On episode 58 of PSQH: The Podcast, Dr. Anthony Sossong, chief medical director of behavioral health at Amwell, talks about how technology can help improve behavioral health services for children.
The proposal imperils a service that had become popular during the pandemic, when health systems shifted in-person care to virtual channels to cut down on hospital traffic and reduce the spread of the virus. Thanks to federal and state waivers tied to the pandemic, healthcare providers were allowed to connect with patients on a telephone or other non-video platform for some healthcare services and be reimbursed for those services.
HealthLeaders recently conducted a round-table with three health system executives to talk about their RPM programs and strategies. This panel featured Carrie Stover, MSN, NP-C, national senior director of virtual care for Ascension; Sarah Pletcher, MD, MHCDS, system vice president and executive medical director for strategic innovation at Houston Methodist; and Kathryn King, MD, MHS, associate executive medical director at the Center for Telehealth at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
The rapid shift toward telehealth accelerated the adoption of remote patient monitoring and played a significant role in making at-home care a reality. This new care delivery model helped to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable and allowed providers to deliver the full continuum of care for patients with acute and chronic illnesses.
Compiled by the New York-based telehealth scheduling company Zocdoc, the survey, taken separately of patients and care providers between May 2020 and May 2022 and combined with an analysis of appointment bookings, charts the increase in telehealth visits during the pandemic and a decrease in recent months as the COVID-19 crisis has waned. It found that roughly one-third of all visits were virtual in 2020, as the pandemic peaked, and that number dropped to 17% as of May 2022.
Unlike synchronous telehealth, which basically consists of a two-way, real-time audio-video feed between patient and care provider, asynchronous telehealth doesn’t involve real-time communication, and most often doesn’t include video. Consumers enter information into an online platform at their own time and convenience, usually through a questionnaire, and a care provider accesses that data on the other end then responds with a diagnosis and treatment plan. It can be done by phone or computer and include images and even video, but the key factor is that both patient and provider can access the platform at the time and place of their choosing.
If the healthcare has learned anything over the past few years, it’s the need for change and improvement to systems and processes, particularly those related to care delivery for vulnerable populations. Organizations like Emcara Health were already working toward more interconnected, at-home delivery of care even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and over the past few years they saw the concept become top of mind for the industry.
The Acute Hospital Care at Home program was developed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reduce expensive hospitalizations and give patients the opportunity to receive care at home. Healthcare organizations were encouraged to launch these programs by CMS waivers enacted during the COVID-19 public health emergency that boost reimbursements and reduce barriers on the use of telehealth and other services.
The new study was published by HealthAffairs. The study is based on an analysis of claims data from Office Ally, a claims clearinghouse for Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial payers. The researchers compared mental health service utilization from time periods before and during the pandemic: 2016 to 2018 and March to December 2020.
New survey results indicate that “telehealth use will outlive the pandemic,” reported by Optum, UnitedHealth Group’s health services division, conducted fall 2021, which captured physician telehealth utilization including opportunities and frustrations.