We all know that telehealth has been growing thanks to COVID-19. Let’s be honest, a lot of healthcare doesn’t have any choice. They have to move towards telehealth or not see patients that need to be seen. We highlighted the telehealth growth in smaller medical practices. Now, let’s take a look at some health system experiences.
The first example comes to us thanks to the amazing CT Lin, CMIO at UCHealth. He shared the following graph of UCHealth’s in-person visits (red) and virtual visits (blue) for part of 2019-2020:
Note: The 2 blips on the red line were probably Thanksgiving and Christmas
Hard to ignore the inflection point where virtual visits passed in-person office visits.
What’s even more fascinating is CT Lin’s description of their telehealth experience prior to COVID-19:
We came up with all sorts of leadership plans to increase video visits: more education to front-line physicians (not helpful); sending experts to clinic to tout the benefits (nope); introducing video visits to clinicians already on bundled payments, such as surgeons whose post-op visits were no-fee (slight adoption). Video visit adoption was a local phenomenon: a few docs found it useful and did several hundred visits that way over the course of a year, and most others did not try it. Finally, we did get some traction by dedicating some urgent care docs to Virtual Urgent Care, for either a flat $49 fee or co-pay with participating insurers. For the most part though, bupkis.
CT Lin notes that going into March 2020 they were seeing fewer than 100 video visits a week and then within a week that number had grown to 3000+ visits per day. In ALL of 2019 they’d only done 2700 virtual visits (about a dozen a day for those keeping track at home) and now they’re doing 3000+ visits per day. That’s just astounding to consider.
No doubt CT Lin is a progressive CMIO who had worked for a while to make sure that they were ready for telehealth. He notes that they are all on a single Epic EHR instance and had worked for a year integrating the 2 way telehealth video system from Vidyo within Epic. This set them up for such tremendous growth of virtual visits. Coming out of COVID-19, we’re going to come away with a whole series of stories where people like CT Lin were prepared on a technology that made their COVID-19 experience much better. This is one of those examples.
Looking at UCHealth’s experience and a number of others I’m familiar with, it seems certain that Vidyo is going to be one of the big winners in the telehealth space since it’s the company powering some of the largest Epic telehealth efforts that I’ve come across. It’s not clear to me if this is just coincidence that the Epic telehealth implementations I’ve found are all Vidyo or if they have a special partnership with Epic. A search on Epic’s App Orchard for telehealth did list 15 telehealth providers.
Interestingly, Epic even issued a press release (which they never do) on the explosion of telehealth across Epic’s clients, but didn’t mention anything about which telehealth partners their customers are using. Is Epic taking a similar approach to Vidyo as they have with Intersystems? A lot of people don’t realize Intersystems is powering Epic’s Cache database and that seems like what’s happening with Vidyo powering Epic’s telehealth. I’ve reached out to Epic’s PR contact to find out which telehealth solutions their customers are using, but haven’t heard back from them. I’ll update the article if I do hear back.
Of note in the Epic press release is that 200+ Epic customers are setup with telehealth with Epic’s help. Some other stats of note from the release:
- Novant Health went from 200 video visits a year to 12,000 a week
- On 3/6, UC San Diego Health had 6% virtual visits and now it’s more than 50%
- St. Joseph Health setup telehealth in a week and went live with more than 7,000 clinicians
- NYU Langone Medical Center went from 20 to 1,300 virtual clinicians and was seeing 6,500 visits daily. That’s more than 70% of visits being done virtually
I don’t think it’s news that telehealth has grown and was going to grow given the pandemic. However, the numbers are still startling to see and read. Especially considering how resistant providers were to it before COVID-19.
Over the next 6 months, there’s going to be a lot of questions asked. For example, which visits should remain telehealth and which ones really benefit from an office visit? Who gets to choose if it’s telehealth or office visit, the doctor or the patient? What telehealth platforms are performing the best? What are the key features that differentiate the telehealth platforms? How many organizations did a rushed implementation and now they need to go back and fix the implementation or choose a different telehealth provider to replace the one they implemented in the rush?
We’ll keep digging into these questions and more as we share the telehealth best practices with the Healthcare IT Today community. Plus, it will no doubt be an important topic at the EXPO.health conference later this year.
P.S. If you want to see one example of what really makes CT Lin special, check out the end of his article where he shares how he greets patients on telehealth.