Telehealth was a growing trend in 2019 and into early 2020. The convenience of seeing a doctor or other caregiver through your computer screen (without the hassle of traffic and waiting rooms) was a welcome change in the way things were being done in healthcare.
Well, starting in March 2020 this type of care went from a bonus to a necessity. In April 2020, the use of telehealth jumped to 78X the normal rate (Mckinsey) and has since stabilized at around 40X more than normal.
This trend will likely continue when “a return to normal” or something close to it happens.
For those of us in the EHR space, this shift has been seismic, and felt acutely. What’s changed in our industry thus far, and what does the future hold for telehealth and EHR?
Telehealth and the Pandemic
The statistics are mind blowing. The anecdotes are even more so. Telehealth allowed ‘normal’ healthcare operations to continue the past 3 years. Routine check ups, therapy, behavioral health, and everything in between were able to be done over a secure online portal.
It’s become so prevalent that HHS.gov put out rules on which social media apps were acceptable for telehealth visits, and which weren’t (TikTok, for example).
Mckinsey summarizes the reasons for the major shift towards telehealth (not including the obvious, the pandemic):
“This step-change, borne out of necessity, was enabled by these factors: 1) increased consumer willingness to use telehealth, 2) increased provider willingness to use telehealth, 3) regulatory changes enabling greater access and reimbursement. During the tragedy of the pandemic, telehealth offered a bridge to care, and now offers a chance to reinvent virtual and hybrid virtual/in-person care models, with a goal of improved healthcare access, outcomes, and affordability.”
So let’s discuss a little bit about telehealth and Electronic Health Records (EHR), and how they work efficiently together.
Telehealth’s Effect on EHR
Telehealth and EHR are inextricably linked. When a patient has a virtual visit, the visit is smoother and easier for both parties if the patient’s information is readily available to the doctor.
Since an EHR is widely accepted on both sides of the check-in desk, it’s a natural piece of the telehealth picture and should be treated as such by caregivers. Reduction of administrative tasks for physicians will result in more time for giving care to patients, either in-person or virtual.
Telehealth solutions must integrate with leading EHR vendors in order to be widely adopted. We’ve seen this happening in 2020 through 2022 and this will continue to be critical in the telehealth space.
The benefits of synced integration are numerous, according to Healthcare IT, “without EHR-telehealth integration, physicians would most likely have to input the same information twice. Integrating the two systems allows for information to automatically go into a patient’s health record, which simplifies the data-entry process, reduces the chances of making an error when updating the EHR at a later time and ensures specialists have access to the most current information.”
So it’s clear telehealth is here and here to stay. What happens next?
2022 and Beyond: Expansion and Integration
Not only are patients enjoying the convenience of telehealth, many are sharing opinions to shape the future of the industry. Around 40 percent of surveyed consumers stated that they believe they will continue to use telehealth going forward (Mckinsey)—up from 11 percent of consumers using telehealth prior to COVID-19.
Providers are relishing the change, too. Fifty eight percent, in fact, view telehealth more favorably now than they did before COVID-19. As of last April, 84% of physicians were offering virtual visits and 57% would prefer to continue offering virtual care.
In the behavioral health space, as we mentioned for associated EHRs, all parties need to start moving towards this new future of our industry. Behavioral health is behind the curve when it comes to telehealth and many patients still do not have access to this care option.
In rural areas, the differences are stark compared to more populated, urban cities. As an industry we need to work together to expand access to telehealth, and integrate these services with the top EHR vendors.
If you’d like to discuss EHR, telehealth, or the integration between the two – please contact us – our team at Behavioral Information Systems would love to talk you through it!