Recently, The Chartis Group and Kythera Labs published the results of a study on telehealth use from 2020 to 2022. Unlike many studies that use a select pool of participants, this one gathered information from more than 400 million insurance claims. What it found makes for a fascinating portrait of the growth of telehealth in the United States, as well as its current status and possible future.
● Telehealth has grown significantly since before the Covid-19 pandemic, from being used by just 1% of patients in the “before times” to its current role as the source of 10% of all outpatient visits.
● Telehealth platforms are most used by adults aged 18-44.
● Seniors - adults 65 and older - use telehealth platforms the least.
● The most common medical categories for telehealth use are behavioral health, with 57% of all outpatient visits done through telehealth; primary care, with 10%; and medical specialties that involve continuous telehealth use, at 5.8%.
● Perhaps most interestingly for fans of our blog, the study found that the highest relative rate of telehealth use comes from regions with low percentages of people who only speak English.
● In 2022, the states with the highest use of telehealth were Hawaii, California, and Washington DC. Among the states with the lowest telehealth rates were Alaska, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.
The states with the lowest percentage of telehealth users are among those where this innovation might seem most beneficial, as it would eliminate possible issues like distance and availability of health providers and hospitals. The lack of use may be due, at least in part (or maybe significantly), to a lack of broadband internet connection, one of the biggest challenges telehealth providers and patients face.
Some of the study’s findings may seem unsurprising, especially if you’ve been following telehealth news closely. For instance, the need to better adapt telemedicine for seniors is clearly reflected here.
On the other hand, it’s surprising that telehealth is used so frequently by people who may have limited English proficiency or prefer to speak a language other than English.
In August 2021, we published an article about adapting telehealth platforms for non-English speakers. It’s possible that some of the changes we explored have become more widely implemented - an excellent piece of news!
The work isn’t over yet: the study advises providers to be more attentive to how their platforms can be used by patients who use languages other than English. Still, this finding does show a promising change and the potential for improvements in the future - just as the overall study does.
While there are still some significant hurdles to overcome, the Chartis Group and Kythera Labs’ massive study confirms that telehealth platforms have become a part of standard medical care for many people.
With benefits like eliminating the need for travel and saving time and travel-related expenses for patients, it’s easy to understand why so many have embraced this technology. In the years to come, hopefully barriers to telehealth access will be overcome, so that many more people will be able to utilise this resource.
Contact Our Writer – Alysa Salzberg