The rise of hybrid care and health IT's golden age: 3 thoughts from Dr. Peter Antall

Telehealth has played a crucial role in helping providers continue to care for patients amid a deadly pandemic. In 2020, telehealth usage rose considerably, with 22 percent of consumers and 80 percent of physicians reporting at least one virtual visit, marking respective increases of 8 and 22 percent in 2019, according to a survey conducted by Amwell.

While the pandemic accelerated the adoption of these technologies, users' positive experience with telehealth is poised to keep usage rates high once the pandemic subsides. More than 90 percent of patients surveyed said they were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with their telehealth visit.

The success of telehealth and its influence on the future of patient care was the focus of a March 23 fireside chat featuring Peter Antall, MD, CMO of Amwell, during Becker's Telehealth Virtual Forum. Here are four key takeaways from the discussion:

1. Healthcare is entering a technological "golden age." With increased provider adoption of telehealth and emerging advancements in wearables and data analytics, "we're really in a golden age with [telehealth] and health IT in general," said Dr. Antall. The key to this advancement has been physician adoption. Demand for telehealth among patients was on the rise before COVID-19, but physician adoption lagged. That is no longer the case.

2. Telehealth growth includes specialty care. The expansion of telehealth services in 2020 wasn't limited to "just urgent care or primary care," Dr. Antall said. In 2020, more than 40 percent of consumers who reported a virtual visit had a scheduled visit with a specialist they already knew, and another 13 percent had a virtual visit with a new specialist, according to the Amwell survey.

"There is so much that can be done throughout the healthcare ecosystem with the use of telehealth," Dr. Antall said.

3. Hybrid care: What it is, what it isn't and what it means for the future of care delivery. Dr. Antall described hybrid care as leveraging a combination of virtual and in-person services in a complementary fashion to deliver high quality care to patients. However, the CMO noted that these services cannot be siloed. Hybrid care must be supported by data sharing, interoperability and clinical cooperation across an enterprise. In the future, hybrid models have the potential to eliminate barriers to care and improve patient engagement.

"[With Telehealth] we see evidence of lower no-show rates, particularly in behavioral health, which really suggests that sometimes barriers like the drive, paying for parking, missing work, the kids being home, those can be real barriers to patients receiving care and result in no shows and lack of compliance," Dr. Antall said. "Those are some of the reasons why I think providers are really thinking seriously about offering [telehealth] when warranted, when it's safe and clinically effective. And then they can bring patients in for in-person visits, of course, when they need to."

To view this session on-demand, click here. To learn more about Amwell, click here.

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