University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation (IHPI): What does the future hold for telehealth? New report gives hints

A new report from the University of Michigan provides new data of disparities in adoption, access and attitudes when it comes to telehealth, through previously unreleased data as well as finding from published research.

Among the newly released findings:

  • 1 in 5 patient visits covered by BCBSM as of March 2021 are by telehealth, showing the lasting interest in virtual visits even as the pandemic ebbed
  • 91% of larger primary care practices in Michigan used telehealth, compared with 63% of solo practices. Larger practices also had a higher percentage of visits via telehealth.
  • Striking disparities in use of video visits emerged from the analysis of Michigan Medicine data, with much lower use by patients who are older, are African-American, need an interpreter, have Medicaid as a primary insurance, or live in a zip code where less than half of households have broadband Internet access.
  • Telephone-based audio-only visits have been covered by most insurers during the pandemic, but there are signs this may change once the emergency status is lifted. However, more than 60% of Michigan Medicine patients over age 65 used this option in May through June of 2020, with the percentage going up with age. Patients of any age who live in rural areas are also more likely to use audio-only visits.
  • When all costs are taken into account, video visits and in-person visits cost approximately the same, and patients were no more likely to cancel or fail to show up for a video visit than they were for in-person visits.
  • Half of all Michigan Medicine clinicians surveyed say that after the pandemic they intend to offer the same volume of video visits as now. About 40% said their productivity is the same now that telehealth is an option, and 27% say it’s higher. A majority said they were able to provide the same quality of care over telehealth and establish the same level of rapport with patients.
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