OLDWICK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A lack of reimbursement models and overall low usage by individuals and providers hindered telehealth adoption. However, according to a new AM Best report, 2020 was arguably the most eventful year on record for telehealth as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of video-enabled visits by individuals and providers.

As noted in the Best’s Special Report, “Telehealth Claim Surge from Pandemic Transforms Healthcare Delivery,” a recent industry survey found that just one-quarter of respondents said they would prefer a virtual appointment once the pandemic ends. While the use of telemedicine in the U.S. health care industry has surged since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether the trend is permanent remains uncertain.

During the pandemic, some health insurers have invested in and enhanced access through community resource centers to reach low-income individuals more effectively. Furthermore, many health insurers have been offering plan designs that include a virtual component and reduced co-pays. The pandemic also has caused a sharp uptick in behavioral and mental health visits, including a growing number of new patients; by covering virtual visits for mental health, insurers can provide increased access to care and help improve an individual’s overall well-being.

Telehealth usage also has surged in government-sponsored programs. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) allowed states to apply for Medicaid waivers to cover certain services under telehealth, resulting in many states implementing new policies. Additionally, the use of telehealth for Medicare for the duration of the pandemic-related public health emergency has been expanded, eliminating the need for in-person appointments and reducing potential exposure to COVID-19.

AM Best believes that telehealth services are a positive for the health industry. Virtual health visits provide members with continuity of care, which can help manage both the well-being of and expenses for those with chronic conditions. Health insurers also recognize the growing importance of virtual visits, and can facilitate the use of the technology by providers. At the same time, technological advances and the widespread use of smartphones and tablets have made virtual appointments significantly more viable. Payment parity between virtual and in-person visits expanded provider willingness to offer services virtually, enhanced access to enrollees and filled the earnings gap for providers affected by reduced in-person visits. With the increase in the number of individuals interested in using telehealth, providers need to adapt to maintain the relationship with their patients, during the pandemic and in a post-COVID world.

To access the full copy of this market segment report, please visit http://www3.ambest.com/bestweek/purchase.asp?record_code=305320.

AM Best is a global credit rating agency, news publisher and data analytics provider specializing in the insurance industry. Headquartered in the United States, the company does business in over 100 countries with regional offices in New York, London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico City. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

Copyright © 2021 by A.M. Best Company, Inc. and/or its affiliates. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


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