Telehealth News Recap - March 2023
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.
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Happy March! 🍀 This month’s Virtual Care News includes the most exciting acquisitions in the last month, interesting takes on healthcare disruption, and two studies on telehealth impact including one that shows adoption rate for telehealth has now reached 80%, a long way from the roughly 10% utilization rate in 2018, when Wheel was founded. The demographic breakdown is very promising. Of course, we’ve also shared important information regarding the end of PHE waivers, the DEA’s proposal for moving forward, and what digital health companies can do to ensure compliance in a post-pandemic world.
Trends & Insights
Telemedicine Reaches 80% Adoption
A new study from Rock Health shows that telemedicine has reached the 80% adoption mark overall. Historically underserved groups showed notable increases in adoption including double digit increases from rural, hispanic, and 55+ respondents. Adoption among LGBQA+, transgender, nonbinary, and women respondents increased as well. The report also shows that audio-only and asynchronous telemedicine beat out point-to-point video chats as the most used telemedicine modalities. Telemedicine is now the preferred channel for prescription care and minor illness.
Study Finds Telehealth Saves Money for Cancer Patients
A study published in JAMA Network Open found that oncology patients saved both time and travel costs when utilizing telehealth services – reducing the astronomical cost burden associated with cancer care. The researchers noted that future studies should explore other cost savings such as the savings to cancer caregivers and how these vary for rural and urban patients.
Virtual-first Health Plan Comes with $0 Out-of-pocket Costs
Blue Shield of California launched its virtual-first health plan, Virtual Blue, which goes into use on April 1. The employer-provided plan features no copay or deductible charges and its services include pediatrics, family medicine, integrated mental health care, 24/7 urgent care, and over 20 specialties. The plan comes with vitals kits so members can check metrics from home and if a member needs in-person care, they can access Blue Shield’s PPO network at regular PPO costs.
Policy & Regulatory Updates
🎥 VIDEO: Regulatory News Roundup - Which Pandemic Telehealth Flexibilities End When? Inside DEA's Rule, Omnibus Law, & State Policies
WTF’s Jessica DaMassa and Quinn Shean, a telehealth regulatory thought leader, discuss which virtual care flexibilities end with the Public Health Emergency (PHE) on May 11, and which will continue on until the end of 2024 thanks the Omnibus law passed by Congress at the end of 2022. Because Quinn’s special area of expertise is State regulation for telehealth, she shares insight into just how much legislation is currently passing through State legislatures (now in session) to impact everything from licensure and reimbursement to which types of providers can deliver virtual care and where they can deliver it.
DEA’s Proposed Rules on Telemedicine Controlled Substances Prescribing after the PHE Ends
The DEA has announced proposed rules for prescribing controlled substances via telemedicine after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency expires. The proposed rules are open for public comment until 11:59 p.m. on March 29th. The proposal will discontinue the ability for telemedicine prescribing of controlled substances where the patient hasn’t had an in-person exam (with 7 exceptions). Intended to bridge between the DEA’s current PHE waivers and a post-PHE environment, the industry reaction is that the proposed rules are more restrictive than necessary and impose burdens on clinicians. Feel free to submit comments before the deadline!
First Opinions & Engaging Conversations
How Retail Giants are Disrupting Traditional Healthcare
An AHA Center for Health Innovation report explores how the $260 billion primary care market, currently dominated by traditional providers in a fee-for-service model, is changing rapidly. According to a Bain & Company analysis, by 2030, nontraditional players could own as much as 30% of the primary care market. The report shows how rapid advances from large retailers like Amazon, Apple, and CVS pose challenges for traditional care organizations trying to keep up.They also note that "CIOs and other leaders will have to be more visionary and willing to explore partnerships and platforms at a scale and speed that just two or three years ago seemed unimaginable."
HealthcareIT News >
Full AHA report >
What the Metaverse and Virtual Reality Can Contribute to Healthcare
From enabling surgeons to simulate surgical procedures prior to operations to allowing seamless collaboration across the industry, virtual reality and the metaverse are showing promising results for healthcare applications. A study from UCLA found VR improved overall surgical performance by 230% over traditional methods and reduced the number of diagnostic errors. Expert, Pari Natarajan, CEO of Zinnov, says uses like 3D avatars and real-time data inputs can improve telehealth quality as well, enhancing the human element for patients and clinicians.
Growth & Innovation
Industry Growth Roundup
From major retail acquisitions to non-traditional players stepping into the healthcare space, here are a few innovative collaborations and expansions that we think signal growth and longevity for virtual healthcare
AARP leans into at-home care with Luna, providing its 38M members with in-person MSK care.
Albertsons launches app uniting pharmacy, nutrition and telehealth.
Amazon closes $3.9B One Medical deal as it builds out healthcare strategy.
CVS finally makes primary care play, scooping up Oak Street Health in $10.6B deal,
An Idea Whose Time Has Come: How Wheel Became a Leading Virtual Care Platform
From two people in a closet-sized office to seeing our name in lights in Times Square, the Wheel story continues to be one of perseverance, passion and vision. Wheel CEO Michelle Davey, sat down with Jackson Fordyce, Associate Editor at Fortune Magazine to talk about everything from the early days of Wheel to what needs to change in healthcare. We thought it’d be fun to use the interview clips to tell the Wheel story.