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Is Telehealth a Post-COVID Reality for Mental Health Providers?

COVID-19 has caused a revolutionary and massive acceleration in the use of telehealth tools in mental health practices.

Here are some quick facts for you:

  • According to a McKinsey consumer survey in April, use of telehealth has skyrocketed from 11% of US consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.

  • According to Beacon Healthcare, claims data suggest that compared to April 2019, telehealth sessions increased 5,130% in April 2020. Additionally, claims for telehealth services may not include a telehealth modifier, and are therefore not included in the calculations.

  • According to a recent McKinsey article, pre-COVID, the total annual revenues of US telehealth players were an estimated $3 billion. With the acceleration of consumer and provider adoption of telehealth up to $250 billion of current US healthcare spend could potentially be virtualized.

There is one truth that working with insurance companies has revealed and that is to follow the money. In this case, COVID-19 has completely altered the face of telehealth and the adoption of telehealth technology. The question that we have received lately is, "Is telehealth a long lasting change that insurance companies are going to make post-COVID?".

There is not a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are some good suggestions floating around the major thinktanks and research organizations in the United States.

Here are some projections of what healthcare payers and systems are likely to consider according to large consulting firms across the United States:

Actions payers are likely to consider:

  1. Define a value backed virtual roadmap: insurance companies will likely take a data-driven view to prioritize interventions that will improve outcomes for priority populations and develop strategies to digitally enable care

  2. Optimize provider networks and accelerate value-based contracting to incentivize telehealth. Payers are likely to define approaches to reimbursement and covered services that optimize value-based models. They will are also likely to align incentives for using telehealth.

  3. Insurance companies are likely to integrate virtual health into care delivery. They will likely consider options in virtual health hosted on their websites.

  4. Payers will likely reinforce the technology and analytics foundation that will be required to achieve the full potential of virtual health.

Actions health systems are likely to consider:

  1. Accelerate development of an overall consumer-integrated "front door".

  2. Segment the client populations for disease and specialty

  3. Build the capabilities and incentives of the provider workforce to support virtual care

  4. Measure the value of virtual care by quantifying clinical outcomes. Last week, Practice Solutions and Blueprint did a webinar on how to incorporate the measurement of clinical outcomes through measurement-based care. Feel free to check out the blog that we posted last week and reach out if you have any questions.

As you start to adjust to a post-COVID-19 reality in your private practice, it is going to be important that you start to build strategies and plans to help your practice adjust to the new reality. It is safe to assume that telehealth will likely be a permanent fixture of our healthcare systems.

Your practice will likely have to adapt to this new reality. By learning about best practice for telehealth you can adapt and adjust to the new reality facing healthcare. Practice Solutions will be coming out with articles and content designed to help your practice adopt best practices for telehealth billing so you can continue to meet the needs of your clients for years in the future!


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