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June 12, 2023

Telehealth in 2023: What does primary care look like in a post-Covid landscape?

The U.S.’s Covid-19 public health emergency (PHE) officially ended on May 11th 2023, and along with the World Health Organization (WHO) ending their global health emergency, these changes beg the question—what’s next for telehealth?

The Covid-19 era quickly ushered in other care modalities that better accommodate the spread of infection, accelerating greater adoption of convenient, virtual care options that consumers came to love. However, with the ending of the PHE comes regulatory and reimbursement shifts that raise the question of the effectiveness of telehealth, putting the industry in yet another spot of limbo when it comes to virtual care.

What should CIOs and other healthcare leaders have in mind as they scope out the rest of 2023? What will telemedicine look like in the years to come? And whatsmore—how will this shift the delivery of primary care, as new entrants into the market continue to make plays for low-acuity patients to attract downstream revenue?

Virtual disruption and primary care delivery post-Covid

According to Chris Raphaely, co-chair of the healthcare practice group at Cozen O’Connor, the end of the PHE in the U.S. will reignite the debate over telemedicine, circling back to the same question: how should it be used? 

Raphaely, who sat down with Healthcare IT News, recognized that although the debate over telehealth and telemedicine has been paused due to Covid, it’s not over by any means. Instead, “given the size of telehealth expansion in terms of access and, of course, the speed of technological advances, we will very likely have some different and better answers to those questions than we had before, even during the crisis.”

And recent research could help form the answers to the question of how telehealth and telemedicine will be used post-Covid. According to a new survey by Kyruus, half of consumers said online booking was extremely or very important when selecting a provider, while 41 percent said virtual visit options were extremely or very important. Furthermore, it’s the younger generations who place high value on virtual care and self-service options—for Gen Z, virtual visits (42 percent) were more important than online scheduling (29 percent), where Millennials said virtual visits and digital self-service scheduling were both equally important (37 percent).

Another survey by Bain and Company echoed this sentiment, driving home the desire and need for health systems to adopt some kind of virtual care plan, especially given the rise in non-traditional and disruptive modes of primary care delivery. “Virtual channels will endure,” read the report. “Virtual care is set to grow across all primary care models, climbing back up to early-pandemic levels of approximately 20 percent penetration by 2030. That number could be even higher among young and healthy patients.”

Health system insights for adopting the right technology

According to Raphaely, for CIOs to strategize as best they can, they need to understand what’s available and accessible for patients. “As we know, many patients do not have ready access to broadband internet or computers,” he said. “CIOs need to ask themselves, ‘What technology solutions will work best with my patient’s accessible technology?’”

From a care access standpoint, Bright.md’s asynchronous telehealth solution makes it easy for patients who are limited by transportation to and from care, as well as those in rural areas. Our solution operates without a broadband requirement, and is available in both English and Spanish. In turn, our health system partners expand their options for convenient, low-acuity care to those who otherwise would struggle to find it—all while keeping them within their health system.

Next, Raphaely advised to look for technologies that complement the delivery of care. “The CIO needs to know which ancillary technologies are best suited to support the care being delivered,” he said. For those looking for a virtual solution that can supplement their system’s primary care delivery—while also keeping low-acuity patients out of their ER—Bright.md fits the mold. In fact, our solution was created to be as clinically thorough as a traditional in-person visit, by mimicking traditional in-take processes and streamlining the experience for both clinicians and patients.

Plus, not only does Bright.md have a 97 percent satisfaction rate; we recently did a deep dive into how the Bright.md patient experience compares to other care modalities in terms of quality. According to our data, 79 percent of patient interviews reviewed by a provider were treated asynchronously through Bright.md, proving the effectiveness of the care modality and physician comfort in treating patients this way.

Ease and convenience reign supreme for patients

Finding just any telehealth or telemedicine solution isn’t advisable, according to Raphaely, without considering its ease-of-use for patients. Given the number of options available to find quick care, health systems need to ensure a delightful experience that rivals new market entrants, such as Amazon.

“If the care is great, but it takes the patient 20 minutes to log on through an app or she experiences problems with billing or payment, they will simply not use the service and opportunities to maximize the use and efficiency of telemedicine will be lost,” he said. 

Through Bright.md, patients spend, on average, just 14 minutes completing their clinical interview, while they wait just eight minutes on average for a diagnosis and care plan from a provider. Additionally, asynchronous telehealth has been proven to drive patient volumes and provide value for organizations—in fact, 23 percent of Bright.md patient users said they would have found care outside of their health system if they didn’t have access to our solution, proving how Bright.md deters patient losses to other care venues, while capturing downstream revenue.

Primary care delivery post-Covid may take some time to sort out, but if one thing is clear, it’s consumers’ desire for virtual care options like telehealth. Today’s health systems can’t afford to not include virtual offerings like Bright.md, not only to attract and build loyalty with their patients, but also streamline low-acuity care for their clinicians.

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