A new analysis suggests that downstream capture from telehealth as a "digital front door" does not suggest strong consumer loyalty.
Sanjula Jain, chief research officer at Trilliant and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, recently analyzed the behavior of commercially insured individuals in a single market, within and outside one of the country's largest health systems.
"The recent growth in telehealth utilization is largely attributable to the law of small numbers, with utilization already beginning to taper," Jain argued in a blog post exploring the research.
"These trends are reinforced by quarterly reports from publicly traded telehealth companies, which is further reason to evaluate the notion that telehealth is a 'digital front door,'" she continued.
WHY IT MATTERS
Jain took a deep dive into the consumers who accessed virtual care via the health system, which she refers to as Health System A.
She found that, consistent with national trends, about 13% of individuals accessed telehealth within the system's market at least once in 2020.
However, based on revenue, the downstream aggregate share of care for those patients was only 33.8%. The highest capture rate for follow-up care was within the emergency department, followed by evaluation and management, surgical and nonsurgical care.
"Even with an additional 7% capture rate of individuals using telehealth services outside of Health System A, the overall low share of care for Health System A reflects an opportunity to capture more than 65% of follow-up care prompted by the 'front door' interaction," Jain said.
Jain notes that this is just one market’s story. However, she said, "as more competitors enter an already oversupplied telehealth market, gaining consumer loyalty will likely be even harder."
THE LARGER TREND
Jain points to the importance of considering payment parity and competition – including from retailers – in addition to understanding primary drivers of telehealth utilization when developing telehealth strategies.
But both payment parity and the competitive landscape are hard to predict.
For instance, Congress has yet to act on any major telehealth legislation that would mandate payment parity for virtual services.
And retail giants have expanded their telemedicine footprint in recent months, with both Amazon Care and Walmart making major moves toward expansion.
ON THE RECORD
"For telehealth strategies to be successful, health systems must measure where telehealth patients are pursuing care (both within and outside the health system) to quantify loyalty," wrote Jain.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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