Telehealth is metamorphosing and payers will have to take steps in order to permanently integrate telehealth coverage as a key form of care delivery.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Donna O’Shea, MD, chief medical officer of population health management for UnitedHealthcare, and other leaders at UnitedHealthcare watched as the payer’s telehealth claims shot up ten times higher than the previous year’s numbers.
It is now a familiar narrative, how the pandemic that swept the nation was a precursor to the largest surge in telehealth utilization in American healthcare’s history. Telehealth uses that might have taken years, perhaps decades, to adopt were integrated into the healthcare delivery system seemingly overnight.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may prove to be a watershed moment for the healthcare system, prompting a surge in the use of virtual care,” O’Shea told HealthPayerIntelligence in an email interview.
Now, payers face a new crossroads with telehealth. As telehealth waivers expire and utilization stabilizes as in-person visits return, the healthcare industry may be tempted to return to a pre-COVID mindset about telehealth.
But that may not be able to happen.