Telehealth delivers temporary revenue stop gap among large providers, Fitch says

The rapid increase in telehealth services across the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a temporary revenue stop gap for in-person visits and social distancing measures, according to Fitch Ratings.

Large healthcare providers and distributors are positioned to benefit from the acceleration of telehealth as it provides revenue continuity and positive effects through the healthcare supply chain because physicians can continue to prescribe medications, according to the Aug. 20 report.

The demand for telehealth services after the pandemic, however, will depend on two factors: whether Medicare and private payers continue covering telehealth visits and if patients continue seeing value in virtual care.

Healthcare providers HCA Healthcare, Universal Health Services, Tenet Healthcare and Community Health confirmed the increase in demand for remote services during the second quarter of fiscal year 2020. HCA performed more than 500,000 virtual visits; Tenet reported more than 190,000 virtual visits within its physician business and tens of thousands of hospital-to-hospital telehealth visits; and Community Health managed more than 230,000 virtual visits.

Teladoc Health also reported 2.8 million virtual visits in the second quarter, which is more than three times the number managed during the same period last year. The company anticipates gains to continue into 2021, according to Fitch.

Merger and acquisition activities, venture capital and other investors have generated considerable capital in telehealth due to the need for tech-based infrastructure to support virtual care during the pandemic. However, post pandemic, growth could be stymied by reimbursement uncertainty, seniors' access to high-speed internet services and questions about effectiveness of video versus in-person visits.

Click here to view the full report.

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