More than half of providers plan to expand telehealth offerings, survey shows

Telemedicine consultation
Providers aren't backing off from telehealth, despite ongoing uncertainty about reimbursement. (Getty/AndreyPopov)

Healthcare providers still lack clarity around the future of telehealth reimbursement, but that’s not stopping them from growing their programs.

Nearly 60% of providers plan to expand the telehealth service lines or push the technology into other specialties, according to a survey conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and KLAS Research. A quarter of the 104 providers in the survey plan to increase patient access and 10% say they will focus on follow-up care.

Ten percent of respondents also said they had no future plans for telehealth.

Providers appear willing to continue making investments in telehealth despite significant uncertainty over the future of reimbursement, which was the biggest limitation to expanding all three forms of telehealth covered in the report: scheduled visits, on-demand and specialty care.

RELATED: Telehealth expansion takes a step forward with Senate’s passage of CHRONIC Care Act

But that limitation is outweighed by several notable benefits, including better patient access to care, lower costs and improved outcomes. That is particularly true for telespecialty consultations, the most widely used form of telehealth among survey respondents. Nearly two-thirds of providers that offered telespecialty consultations reported improved patient access and 47% said the program led to better clinical outcomes.

Several telehealth bills have passed through various committees in the House and Senate, including the CHRONIC Care Act, which passed a full Senate vote last month. But it’s still unclear whether any of those bills will reach the president's desk by the end of the year.

“Our members are advocates for improving patients’ lives through innovations like telehealth,” CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell said in a release. "But it needs to be carefully implemented to meet its potential and we still face headwinds with reimbursement and integration issues."

RELATED: More than half of patients prefer telehealth visits to in-person care

Providers also highlighted technical challenges. Seventy percent of respondents said their telehealth platform had no integration with their EHR system, and just 14% reported bidirectional integration.

“Integration of telehealth with provider EMRs is still at a primitive level,” said KLAS President Adam Gale. “Vendors need to step up in terms of technology and improved support.”