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Telehealth in 2022: What Is the “New Normal”?

Is telerehabilitation here to stay? Let's review recent years' tech trends to understand what we can expect of telehealth in 2022.
A Rehabilitation Therapist Wearing Teal Scrubs Looks Down At A Laptop, Where A Senior Patient Is On Video, Smiling. Illustrating The Topic: &Quot;Telehealth In 2022&Quot;

Like many other industries, healthcare took an unexpected turn during the height of the COVID pandemic, pushing providers to adapt quickly to the rapid adoption of telehealth. However, now that the new normal is starting to emerge, many healthcare organizations wonder if the emphasis on telehealth will continue as well as if patient behaviors will keep evolving with upcoming engagement and practice management innovation.

Keep reading to review the trends of recent years and gain a better understanding of what we can expect in 2022.

What Fueled The Rapid Adoption of Telehealth?

Throughout the COVID pandemic and even still today, healthcare providers face a unique challenge: caring for potentially infectious people while keeping patients and team members protected from a highly-transmissible virus.  By offering telehealth, providers are able to better manage the influx of COVID cases as well as balance capacity between patients who seek out virtual care vs those who are treated in-person. Through this approach, providers have reduced the risk of COVID exposure while still addressing the needs of patients with chronic conditions or non-communicable diseases who consistently require care. What’s more, telehealth has also helped in preserving the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in addition to streamlining front desk and clinical operations. 

Patient Behaviors and Preferences

Due to stay-at-home mandates, patients were forced to explore additional options and seek remote care via phone or video. Since then, insurers, policymakers and software providers have sought ways to accelerate virtual patient engagement through revisions in telehealth policies, coverage and implementation. Taken together, these changes —  along with the benefits of enhanced flexibility and improved availability — fueled the sudden increase in telehealth visits during the pandemic. 

Government Response

Government funding has also helped increase telehealth accessibility. In fact, throughout 2020, the CARES Act provided more than $200 million in support of telehealth services, with additional investments in 2021 targeted to expand even more access to underserved areas. Additionally, the National Governors Association (NGA) listed telehealth, its accessibility to rural communities and the availability of services by specialists as the first steps towards their goal of ensuring the affordability of broadband access in all aspects of life.

In terms of local community policies, governors across the United States have also enhanced health care services by: 

  • Providing new and existing broadband grant programs 
  • Funding the deployment of broadband network infrastructure 
  • Increasing the number of providers both in and out-of-state that can practice telehealth  
  • Reimbursing telehealth audio-only and asynchronous services, among several strategies

What Does The Future Hold For Telehealth in 2022?  

Current trends suggest that telehealth will continue to skyrocket in the next few years, but regardless of projected figures, the surge of technology as well as the dedication to provide access to quality patient care are what will sustain the market in 2022 and beyond.

  • According to data from a global research company Facts and Factors, the telehealth market is on track to reach $475.50 billion by 2026, at an annual growth rate of 26.5% every year. 
  • On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal came up with a smaller estimate of $30 billion growth, from $25.4 billion in 2020 to $55.6 billion in 2025. 

However, in the post-pandemic future, business and healthcare professionals predict telehealth to be the standard service across all patient care settings. With the increased confidence of providers and patients alike, wanting to utilize telehealth platforms, the demand for remote care will continue to surge. In fact, McKinsey reports that 40-60% of patients in the U.S. favor telehealth, including options for lower-cost virtual-first health plans. 

Secure, User-Friendly Access 

To drive ongoing adoption, issues of patient confidentiality, data security and tech literacy need attention. With this being said, insurance and other healthcare providers should align themselves to provide more secure, user-friendly systems for telehealth services

Medicare and Medicaid Policies 

Medicare and Medicaid policies must protect both patients as well as primary care physicians (PCP) by ensuring that PCPs receive compensation for their telehealth services. By doing so, these organizations can expand access to eligible patients living in rural areas or among marginalized demographics. 

Licensure Requirements

With telehealth already solving the time, mobility and transportation restraints of face-to-face healthcare, people can make the most of virtual services by waiving certain requirements for PCPs, so that they can be better available to care for patients in other states. In addition to delivering primary care, licensed providers can also prescribe controlled substances should the licensure requirements be waived or temporary licenses are allowed. 

Telehealth Is Here To Stay

In the past few years, patient behavioral trends have had a permanent impact on the healthcare industry. As people continue to integrate more and more virtual engagement into their lives, demand for telehealth will only continue to grow. That’s why today’s providers must embrace the new era of digital healthcare technology as well as communicate proactively with patients, referrals, payors and more. 

Start optimizing your practice with technology-enabled solutions built to streamline clinical care and humanize patient experiences. From telehealth to billing to engagement, learn how you can leverage one secure, convenient platform for every function of your rehabilitation therapy practice.

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