Employers Talk Telemedicine

Telemedicine has become quite the hot topic! Changing regulations and reimbursement policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred more physicians to adopt telemedicine as an option for their patients. The uptick in use is dramatic: According to data from The Commonwealth Fund, on March 8, telehealth represented 0% of health care utilization; on April 19, it was 15%.[i]

But what do employers think of this shift in care delivery? We asked that question of our Employer Advisory Council and learned that the shift is welcome—with a caveat.

Overall, companies support the use of telemedicine; in fact, many employers offered a third-party telemedicine vendor for several years before the pandemic. But although they welcome increased utilization, many would like to see telemedicine become more widely available through local providers rather than from the third-party vendors currently filling the gap. This would help ensure that care is more coordinated and monitored, and that it is recorded in the patient’s EHR.

NCQA is also excited about what the future will bring for telehealth; however, quality control is needed to make sure patients are receiving appropriate care and follow-up. We discussed this during our webinar, COVID, Telehealth & Quality: What’s Now, What’s Next? We’ll also keep reporting on how employers—and all stakeholders—can be sure that telehealth is held to the same high standards as face-to-face care.

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[i] Mehrotra, Ateev; Chernew, Michael; Linetsky, David; et al. The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Outpatient Visits: A Rebound Emerges. May 19, 2020.