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Survey: Telehealth Will Continue After the Pandemic

According to recent research from Optum, entitled “Provider telehealth use and experience survey,” healthcare providers say that telehealth will continue past the pandemic. Eden Prairie, Minn.-headquartered Optum is a pharmacy benefit manager and healthcare provider and is a part of the UnitedHealth Group.

The release states that “As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves across communities, many providers are weighing whether and how to continue offering virtual care. The vast majority of respondents (93 percent) will continue to use telehealth after the pandemic, according to the survey of 240 providers.”

That said, “The U.S. is facing widespread shortages of mental health clinicians: According to the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), more than 6,500 additional mental health clinicians are needed. Primary care physicians can use telehealth to help bridge this gap. Three-quarters of survey respondents are primary care physicians, and nearly one-third of all providers stated they had used virtual care to provide mental health support.”

Key highlights from the report include:

  • Seventy-five percent of respondents say they conduct primary care visits via telehealth
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents say they conduct chronic care visits via telehealth
  • Thirty-nine percent of respondents say they conduct COVID-19 screenings via telehealth
  • Thirty-six percent of respondents say they conduct mental health concerns via telehealth
  • Regarding telehealth tools, 88 percent of respondents say they conduct telehealth visits via video, 80 percent say they use phone visits, 30 percent said they use secure messaging, 12 percent say email, seven percent say text messaging, and only three percent reported using chatbots
  • Respondents say that patients prefer traditional scheduling via phone calls (86 percent), followed by online (51 percent), and in person (26 percent)
  • Sixty-four percent of respondents say they would use the word “convenient” to describe telehealth
  • Twenty-eight percent of respondents say that they feel frustrations with telehealth
    • Fifty-eight percent say their frustration is with the quality of care they can provide
    • Fifty-five percent say their frustration is with managing patient expectations
    • Fifty percent say their frustration is with technical aspects that come with telehealth

The press release adds that “Even with 64% of providers surveyed saying they are somewhat or extremely satisfied with their telehealth technology, they identified several areas of improvement for the patient and clinician experience.”

“Most health care organizations adopted virtual care as recently as the start of the pandemic, so the required technical knowledge still presents a high barrier to entry for patients and even some providers,” the release comments. “The top two priorities for providers in improving telehealth, when seen together, call for bridging the digital divide. Providers saw the No. 1 priority as offering telehealth training to patients who are less digitally savvy. Ongoing telehealth training for clinicians and their staff ranked second.”

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