Posts Tagged: telemedicine

Demand for Behavioral Health Services Accelerated During COVID-19, Virtual Visit Adoption Soared

behavioral health services

It’s no secret that the pandemic has had physical and mental health consequences. While the physical toil data may be more apparent, a new study of claims data looks at the latter. Cigna, one of the country’s biggest health insurance providers, published a new study analyzing behavioral health services claims. The study found that 97% of people had never had a prior claim for it, demonstrating the demand for this treatment. 

About the Study and Its Findings

The study entitled, One-Year Impact of COVID-19: Surging Use of Virtual and Behavioral Health, looked at the pandemic’s impact on mental health and care delivery. Cigna assessed claims data from March to May 2020, the first three months of the pandemic when information was scarce. 

The analysis found some other critical data points in addition to the huge jump in first-time patients seeking behavioral health services.

Antidepressant Use Increases

According to the data, the use of antidepressants increased by 7.9%. It also revealed that 32% of patients taking them had no history of taking them in the six months prior.

Who Sought Out Behavioral Health Services?

The majority (63%) of those seeking help were women. That number rose from 48% pre-pandemic. The age groups most seeking help were the youngest populations. Almost half, 45%, of patients were under the age of 30.

Most Behavioral Health Patients Using Telehealth

Cigna also revealed that 60% of its members are using telehealth to receive care. Before the pandemic, virtual visits compromised only 1% of all claims. Now virtual visits represent two-thirds of behavioral care sessions. 

That change signifies the adoption of telehealth by patients. Below, you can see the rates of adoption, which are all astronomical. 

cigna behavioral health care adoption rate

Image: Cigna

Cigna also followed up on this trend throughout the year. They found it was consistent, with around 66% of all behavioral health claims virtual. 

How Do Patients Feel About Virtual Visits?

In the report, Cigna also included data from its Evernorth Opinion Research survey. Over half, 58%, are comfortable with virtual visits. The leading reasons they prefer it revolve around convenience, fewer costs, and enabled long-distance care. Patients also are ready for healthcare at home, with 76% believing that virtual care is the future. 

Behavioral Telehealth Is Positive for the Workplace, Too

Behavioral health challenges can be just as demanding as physical ones. Often with support, workers can reduce missed days and positively impact their productivity. Cigna included stats from a separate study focusing on the workplace. The results showed a 45% decrease in missed workdays for telehealth patients. 

Final Thoughts on Behavioral Health Services

With the right access, individuals can thrive when addressing mental health concerns. With virtual delivery of behavioral health services, all stakeholders benefit—consumers, payers, providers, and employers. 

The demand for telehealth is not likely to fade post-pandemic. Patient consumers appreciate the convenience, and more people suffering may be likely to feel more comfortable with this route. What’s for sure is that behavioral health services can make all the difference in working through uncertainty and trauma. 

2021 Healthcare IT Trends: A Look Ahead

2021 healthcare it trends

2020 will go down as one of the most disruptive years ever. The world of healthcare was upended by the pandemic, exposing many weaknesses in the healthcare IT ecosystem. The issues around interoperability were always present, and the year began with HHS and CMS attempting to solve them with the new interoperability rule. With 2020 in hindsight, what 2021 healthcare IT trends can the industry expect?

Digital Transformation Accelerates Even Faster

COVID-19 fast-tracked digital transformation for many healthcare systems and hospitals. Telehealth adoption soared as well as remote work. The new demands of a world where people needed to stay home accelerated the need to embrace healthcare digitization

The transformation isn’t over. There are still many challenges that healthcare organizations face—bandwidth, regulations, costs, and more. However, in 2021, the role of healthcare IT and CIOs will continue to evolve and expand to achieve digital transformation. 

Cybersecurity Threats Persist

Ransomware was the leading cybersecurity threat for healthcare in 2020. In October, six hospitals were hit in one day. The consequences of the ransomware shutdown systems and caused operational issues. These incidents and others uncovered vulnerabilities around redundancy and monitoring. 

In 2021, healthcare IT leaders will need to improve their cybersecurity posture with a proactive approach. The thinking must move from “if” to “when.” A possible response to this 2021 IT healthcare trend is to leverage new tools like AI to thwart cyber-attacks. Additionally, organizations will need to rethink business continuity practices so that they never lose their data.

Telemedicine Will Become the Norm

2021 healthcare it trends telehealth

Telemedicine had not taken off until it became mandatory. The move also meant that CMS expanded coverage to 85 new services for telehealth. That move made telemedicine more accessible, yet challenges remain. These include lack of broadband internet, interoperability, and integration.

Look for providers and telehealth platforms to work on these issues to perfect the model. Patients will also have a higher demand for the services, especially those with chronic conditions. The industry could see a hybrid care model for patients, limiting in-person appointments, and shifting to telehealth when possible for convenience. Finally, telehealth could encourage more people to keep up with regular visits since they can do so from the comfort of their homes. 

EHRs Evolve to Meet New Demands

EHRs have been around for over two decades. They seem to be in a constant stage of reiteration. Both the interoperability rule and the pandemic made these iterations more rapid. In the new year, EHR giants will capitalize on even more technology advances, such as integrating virtual assistants, using AI, and moving toward easy, secure data exchanges. 

Big Data Management Becomes More Prominent

Managing healthcare big data isn’t a new trend, but after 2020, it’s a bigger priority for healthcare providers and payers. Looking at healthcare data related to COVID-19, it’s very clear to see the mismanagement of it. The need, moving forward, is for centralization, security, and management. In response, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google all have healthcare-specific clouds. 

By using AI engines and advanced technology, big data can deliver insights that lead to better decision-making and care delivery for the greater public and on an individual basis. Right now, the data is more reactive. Where the industry needs to move to is delivering predictive analytics. 

The Patient Experience

2021 healthcare it trends health app

The interoperability rule, as well as proposed HIPAA changes, emphasize the patient experience. It’s about giving them better and easier access to their patient records. The objective is to transition to value-based care and motivate consumers to be more involved in their health. These drivers will lead to more consumer-friendly apps where patients can view records, make appointments, communicate with clinicians, and more. 

The industry could see partnerships with big tech to make this possible. In October, Google launched a healthcare interoperability readiness program to assist healthcare organizations with compliance with the rule and deliver better experiences. 

2021 Healthcare IT Trends: What’s on Your Radar?

As you prepare for 2021, what healthcare IT trends are on your radar? Do you have concerns around interoperability, big data, compliance, or redundancy? InfoWerks can likely help—we’re experts in healthcare data management. Explore all we can do for you.  

Telemedicine Challenges and How to Resolve Them

telemedicine challenges

Telemedicine is exactly the kind of digital transformation healthcare needed. It’s revolutionized care, saving money, time, and possibly lives. Now, the need for telemedicine is heightened as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though telemedicine has evolved, it’s not perfect. Let’s look at some of the current telemedicine challenges and ideas for solving them.

COVID-19 Has Led to Relaxed Restrictions

CMS and other entities have relaxed restrictions on telemedicine in response to the coronavirus. Medicare coverage of telehealth visits has expanded, adding 85 new services that are covered. Following suit, states and payers have rolled back previous restrictions. Coverage has long been a telemedicine challenge, and the environment has prompted swifter change.

While some restrictions have been removed, private insurers still have inconsistencies. Regulation of insurance occurs at the state level. That means that national insurers could have different rules for each state. This issue needs to be addressed with standardization.

Post-pandemic, all payers should reconsider coverage of telehealth visits. Having this option for all patients could encourage better preventive care while allowing providers to treat more efficiently. 

One of the biggest gaps, still unaltered by an ease in restrictions, is that therapy sessions still remain uncovered. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Having easier access to mental health resources could have a significant impact on patients.

Lack of Broadband Internet Access

Even though we live in a digital world, about 10% of the U.S. population doesn’t use it or have it. The internet isn’t considered a public utility. Many have propositioned that local governments should build their own broadband networks instead of relying on internet service providers (ISPs).

There is an opportunity for payers to get involved in the discussion. They could offer incentives for using telemedicine. To determine if this would be cost-effective, payers will need to look at all the costs. Could providing internet to patients without it actually decrease overall healthcare costs? It’s a question CMS and private payers should consider.

Interoperability and Integration

telemedicine data sharing

If you’re new to telemedicine, you may be concerned about how to select and roll out a program. There are lots of pieces that need to fit together, especially regarding interoperability and integration. Can your telemedicine platform gather information or transfer it to your EHR? As a user, you want a tool that fits in with your workflow and makes it easy to collect and share patient records. On top of this, you’ll need to consider HIPAA compliance.

Launching new software is critical right now, but it’s not something you want to deploy without ensuring it’s effective and efficient. What may be holding you back is the additional strain it may put on your internal IT resources. Partnering with a provider that can compliantly share PHI can accelerate deployment and adoption.

Embracing Telemedicine Now and in the Future

Telemedicine is really about offering access. Patients, especially those in rural areas, need expanded options. By solving some of the remaining telemedicine challenges, the healthcare ecosystem can scale and truly provide unabated access.

What do you think? Is telemedicine the future of healthcare?