Practices Switch to Telehealth In Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic

A new survey of independent medical practices and billing companies has found that they are leaning heavily on telehealth to keep generating income.

The survey, which was conducted by Kareo, connected with more than 600 medical practices and 140 medical billing companies. The vendor conducted the research in late March.

It found that one of the immediate actions medical practices and clinics are taking to maintain their patients’ access to care is to adopt telemedicine solutions. The study found that 75% of respondents reported either having a telemedicine solution already in place or that they intended to deploy one in the near future.

This approach comes as providers grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, with 9% of respondents reporting practice closures and many more worried about potential practice closures. Kareo’s analysis of patient encounters of more than 50,000 medical providers found that by late March, medical practices saw a roughly 35% fall in patient volume.

The survey also concluded that practices were beginning to experience both practice and personal impacts of the pandemic, with 28% of practices offering only telemedicine visits. Meanwhile, 63% of practices were still delivering on-site care, the majority were looking at the possibility of moving to an office-based/telemedicine hybrid or offering only telemedicine-based care.  No doubt that movement has continued since the survey was done as governments have required people to stay at home.

Also, by mid-March 41% of independent medical practices reported offering telemedicine-based services, up from the 22% responding to Kareo’s late 2018 survey. Also, 34% more were making plans to deploy telemedicine technology. By the third week of March, the vendor saw a 500% week-over-week growth in telemedicine visits and a 3,000% increase in telemedicine adoption.

Along the way, the easing of telemedicine security and functionality requirements has allowed practices to consider a wider range of telemedicine possibilities. Including EHRs and consumer-based video call technologies such as Apple FaceTime.

In addition, regulatory changes allowing Medicare, Medicaid and commercial requirements for telemedicine have helped to support medical providers’ rapid shift to virtual care, which has helped them keep the cash flow coming in and sustained medical billers.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.