Many of you might remember when we shared the amazing explosion of telehealth visits thanks to COVID-19. It really is astounding to see how healthcare organizations were able to convert to telehealth visits so quickly and how patients embraced telehealth as an option. However, we all knew that telehealth wouldn’t last forever as in-person visits were again an option for healthcare organizations.
To get an update on how virtual visits are going, I asked CT Lin if he could share an updated graph of in person visits vs telehealth visits at UCHealth. The extraordinary person that he is, he shared the results rather quickly on his blog (Take a minute to go visit his blog. He publishes great content including things like his recently posted Failure Resume). Here’s the graph he shared that he said we could share on here as well:
For those following along at home, this chart is showing weekly visit counts for the year 2020 and the purple line is in person visits and the cyan line is virtual telehealth video visits. CT Lin does want to be sure that this was unvalidated data, so take it with a grain of salt. However, even with some error to the data, the graphs tell an important story.
If you go back to March 2020 (pre COVID-19), UCHealth was seeing fewer than 100 video visits a week. At it’s peak (during Stay-At-Home orders), UCHealth was doing around 20,000 video visits a week. About 5 months later, UC Health is currently doing about 8000 video telehealth visits a week. Just to put this in context, those 8,000 telehealth visits are about 13-15% of their overall visits with about 60,000 in-person visits per week still happening. CT Lin also noted that between virtual and in-person visits, they’re back to about 95% of original clinic volumes.
Here’s a simpler breakout to better illustrate the change:
- Pre COVID-19: ~100 video visits per week
- COVID-19 Peak: ~20,000 video visits per week
- 5 Months Later: ~8,000 video visits per week
There are certainly plenty of caveats to this data. For example, is Colorado unique? Are other areas of the country more open to virtual visits? etc etc etc. It will also be really interesting to check this chart again in 6 months to see if this breakout holds. There is still a lot of telehealth learning we’re doing and will be applied over the next 6 months to make the experience even better. Will that actually drive more patients to do telehealth vs an in-person visit?
That said, I’m pretty sure that every healthcare organization has a chart similar to this one. I also think it’s a real positive that they’ve been able to maintain a good 10-15% of patients as telehealth visits. 8,000 visits per week is a massive improvement over the 100 per week they were doing previously. That does give some indication that it will have some staying power. The question has always just been at what level.
No doubt we’re still early in this new world of virtual care and telehealth. There’s an explosion of development that’s going to make it better and we’re going to have a lot more data to better understand when telehealth makes sense and when it doesn’t. CT Lin offers some initial suggestions in his article that are worth a read. However, this graph starts to give us a clearer picture of the role telehealth will play in healthcare. 10-15% telehealth is a big impact, but maybe not the panacea that some are talking about.