It can be tough to keep up with the latest news in the virtual care space. Wheel's Virtual Care News is a monthly newsletter for stakeholders in the digital health industry. As a subscriber, you'll receive timely information on trending news, regulatory updates, engaging conversations, and key innovations emerging in the space.
Happy April! 🌷This month, we’re sharing insights about how patients choose their providers and a recent study about telehealth follow-up care. We’ve also included two interviews from industry experts, including a panel of experts speaking at SXSW on the retail and health startup role in expanding access for underserved populations, as well as a look at how policy is changing at the state level and an in-depth look at how popular GLP-1 medication, Ozempic, actually works.
Trends & Insights
Telehealth Has Reached a Tipping Point
Healthcare IT News sat down with Sean Mehra, CEO and cofounder of HealthTap, a virtual-first urgent care clinic, to discuss what the end of the PHE will mean in the immediate future and what virtual care looks like in 5-10 years. Mehra isn’t worried about the end of the PHE. He says there is bipartisan support and the laws will come because consumers are expecting telemedicine as a part of their overall care. In 5-10 years, Mehra says we’ll see a shift toward virtual care becoming the default mode for care. Telehealth will become better integrated with local care and we’ll see it continue to expand the scope of what is treatable and manageable remotely.
“We've reached a tipping point. Like most innovative technologies, once consumers at large have been exposed to a superior solution, market forces often drive that solution quickly toward mass adoption and ubiquity.” - Sean Mehra, CEO, HealthTap
How Patients Find and Pick Their Doctors
Tebra interviewed 1,221 people across 5 states for their annual Patient Perspectives Report. They learned that doctor loyalty is “a thing of the past.” Patients mostly use word of mouth and online reviews to choose new healthcare providers — and it doesn’t take much for them to switch. Patients expect digital conveniences such as easier ways to book appointments and text message reminders. 3 out 4 patients said they look for doctors online, and 45% said they would follow their doctor on social media.
Telehealth Expands Access for Trans and Gender Diverse Youth
In May 2022, a Rock Health study found virtual care utilization was higher among certain underserved populations, including the LGBTQ+ community, than their counterparts. A recent study published in Telemedicine and e-Health confirms that during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth increased visit completion and lowered cancellation rates — with 61% of transgender survey respondents saying they were more satisfied with live video telehealth interactions compared to past in-person visits.
Policy & Regulatory Updates
How Telehealth Policy is Evolving at State Level
With the public health emergency set to expire in May, states must decide what telehealth policy will look like moving forward. Policies around cross-state licensure have been allowed to expire in certain states, but policies like payment parity will likely see continued support at the state level. 20-30 million Americans don’t have access to broadband internet so audio-only telehealth appears to be on solid ground. Experts think that most states will align with recent proposed measures from the DEA regarding the prescribing of controlled substances, though the ATA has decried the measures as significantly more restrictive than necessary.
First Opinions & Engaging Conversations
Retailers and Health Startups Aim to Make Inroads for Underserved
With the number of Medicare beneficiaries expected to grow to 80 million in less than a decade, retail pharmacies and healthcare startups are seizing the opportunity to reach consumers who often fall through the cracks. During the public health emergency, retail pharmacies delivered two-thirds of COVID-19 vaccines, serving as the “front door to the public healthcare system.”
John Driscoll, executive vice president and president of U.S. Healthcare at Walgreens, spoke at a SXSW panel and said that with 40% of Walgreens stores being in medically underserved areas, there is an opportunity to build on that “in a meaningful way and allow people to connect where and how they want to, digitally and in-person, and make it easier for patients.” Other panelists at SXSW noted that nontraditional healthcare players are often nimble enough to build out population-specific solutions and build trust in communities who have historically been underserved.
Most Primary Care Telehealth Visits Unlikely to Need In-person Follow Up
A recent study shows that virtual primary care is beneficial to keep costs lower and ensure patients can get seen in a timely manner — creating capacity in the doctor's office so that the patients that do need to be seen in person can be seen sooner. Key takeaways include:
- More than 60% of the time, primary care telehealth visits did not have an in-person follow-up visit in the same specialty within 90 days.
- Kids more frequently had an in-person office visit following a telehealth visit; however, more than half of the time (54%), kids did not have an in-person follow-up.
- 55% of patients with Medicare or Medicaid insurance coverage did not have an in-person follow-up after a primary care telehealth visit.
Growth & Innovation
📽️ VIDEO: Ozempic is All the Rage, How Does It Work?
The popularity of GLP-1 medication for weight loss and diabetes is driving growth and innovation in the digital health industry. Noom recently launched a program offering anti-obesity treatment. Weight Watchers bought a telehealth service known for Ozempic. With all this movement, we thought we’d share a great piece from Vox on how drugs like Ozempic work.
From electronics retailers moving into hospital-at-home and a tech giant using AI to help clinicians, here are a few innovative collaborations and expansions that we think signal growth and longevity for virtual healthcare.
Cue Health expands into at home diagnostics.
Best Buy and Atrium Partner for hospital-at-home.
Transcarent to acquire 98point6.
Microsoft Nuance announces clinical notes application powered by AI.
Parsley Health inks deal with coastal insurers to be an in-network provider.
Health Tech Market Worries, Telehealth Policy Changes, & Hybrid Care's Growth Spurt
Our CEO, Michelle Davey, weighs-in all the things that are influencing the health tech market these days. From telehealth policy changes at both the federal and state level, to the ‘corrected’ state of startup funding and health tech buying among incumbents, Michelle gives her take on these market movers and how she thinks they will ultimately impact the business of healthcare.