Mayo researchers study 2B claims to find telehealth's payoff

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Researchers from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic found that telehealth was highly effective at delivering quality care for several healthcare conditions, but can be improved with remote monitoring tools and a flexible payment system, according to a July 30 report published in Telehealth and Medicine Today.

The researchers looked at 2 billion claims in all 50 states, covering more than 50 percent of private insurer activity in the United States, from January 2019 to December 2020. Researchers also conducted a provider survey (July to August 2020) and a patient survey (November 2020 to February 2021).

Six takeaways:

  1. In April 2020, 12 million telehealth claims accounted for nearly half (49.4 percent) of total healthcare claims. Three in 4 providers said telehealth enabled them to provide quality care to patients. Eighty-four percent of patients said their telehealth visit provided quality healthcare.

  2. Telehealth usage ranged by state. In Massachusetts, telehealth peaked at 74.9 percent. In Mississippi, it peaked at just 25.4 percent.

  3. In a provider survey, 83 percent of respondents said telehealth enables them to give quality care for chronic disease management, followed by 77 percent for care coordination, 72 percent for medication reconciliation and 67 percent for preventative care. Providers found telehealth was the least helpful for procedures and acute care.

  4. In a survey that allowed providers to select multiple options, 40.4 percent of providers said having a smartphone to take photos would be the most helpful remote technology to assist with telehealth, followed by 25.3 percent of respondents who selected blood pressure cuffs and 20.9 percent who chose body weight scale.

  5. About 8 in 10 (72.8 percent to 82.1 percent) providers said low reimbursement is the biggest barrier to maintaining telehealth after COVID-19, followed by technology challenges for patients (65.6 percent to 73 percent) and liability (30.4 percent to 36.6 percent). Ranges are based on whether a provider is located in an urban, suburban or rural location.

  6. Based on study results, researchers recommended the United States develop a flexible payment system to support telehealth visits and ensure better broadband access for patients.

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