Influx of telehealth requests leading to long delays at Jefferson Health, Cleveland Clinic & more

With the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic leading many healthcare providers to direct their patients to seek care virtually, existing telehealth services are straining under the new and sudden flood of users, Stat reports.

Though the newfound attention was initially seen as a boon for telehealth as a whole, providers and telehealth companies have changed their tune in just a matter of days, as that attention has resulted in major backlogs in requests. These delays are reportedly due in large part to shortages on the provider side.

"You can get the technology to support these astounding volumes," Roy Schoenberg, CEO of telemedicine company Amwell, told Stat. "But you're very quickly getting to a point where the supply of medical services isn't there. We need to have enough clinicians to allow us to handle that incoming volume."

Indeed, Amwell partner Cleveland Clinic has reportedly seen telehealth visits increase fifteenfold within the last week, while Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health's virtual care visits are now 20 times higher than usual.

To adjust to these rapidly growing numbers — which will likely only continue to grow with the White House's March 17 decision to expand Medicare telehealth coverage — Cleveland Clinic, for one, is preparing all 4,000 of its physicians to provide video consultations.

Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine, meanwhile, is constantly updating and upgrading its proprietary telehealth system in real-time, Stat reports. The health system is now providing consultations via phone, video and chatbot, and is preparing primary care physicians to deliver virtual care.

Despite these unavoidable growing pains, telehealth providers are optimistic that the successful deployment of the services during this time of crisis will ultimately make telehealth a regular and widely used part of the U.S. healthcare system during less stressed times as well.

"Telehealth allows you to pool together healthcare resources and drive them to where they're desperately needed," Mr. Schoenberg of Amwell told Stat. "That is the clarity everyone is beginning to see."

Read more here.


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