Survey Underscores Telehealth’s Benefits during COVID-19 and Beyond
ANN ARBOR, MI, June 15, 2020 – Telehealth has been a resounding success as healthcare organizations quickly implemented solutions to remotely care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey of nearly 200 digital healthcare executives conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). Telehealth’s rapid implementation is testament to the skills and resourcefulness of these organizations’ IT leadership, who shared insights on their greatest gains, challenges and future needs.
“Our members and their teams have worked tirelessly to help protect their patients, clinicians and communities from COVID-19,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. “They have been extremely innovative, using existing and new technologies, partnerships and the knowledge of their peers to respond to this unprecedented crisis. They have shown the world how resilient they are, and how amazingly nimble they can be, when faced with adversity.”
The survey revealed huge increases for virtual visits and appointments. Of the organizations surveyed, 73% had conducted less than 25 virtual visits per day prior to COVID-19. Post COVID-19, 84% of organizations were conducting more than 50 visits per day and a full one-third of those were scheduling over 250 visits per day. Even organizations that already had been seeing high volumes of patients virtually prior to COVID-19 experienced a 366% increase in the number of virtual visits. Organizations also reported a pre vs. post COVID-19 hike in the use of remote patient monitoring.
Many respondents listed the swift deployment and implementation of telehealth and virtual visits – some within mere days or a week – as their greatest success. Many noted quick adoption by clinicians and physicians as a win, along with physician and patient satisfaction with the ability to safely provide and get remote care. Limited supplies of high-demand technology, integration issues, patients’ lack of resources like broadband and unfamiliarity with the technology posed challenges, but many organizations found ways to surmount these obstacles. Based on their experience handling COVID-19, almost 80% suggested that telehealth would require more future funding and more than 60% supported more funding for remote monitoring.
The federal government has allowed regulatory flexibilities during the public health emergency, a move that some respondents praised and wanted continued. “Our members greatly appreciate efforts by the administration, Congress and federal agencies to reduce the strain that COVID-19 has placed on their healthcare organizations,” said CHIME Public Policy Vice President Mari Savickis. “The flexibilities have allowed members to expand virtual care at a critical time. Given the great success we’ve seen, we’d like many of those flexibilities to be made permanent.”
When asked in the survey how concerned members are with meeting upcoming federal deadlines on information blocking, more than 45% were extremely or very concerned and 25% were concerned. About 7% said they hadn’t had time to learn about the deadlines because they were devoting their attention to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services extended the compliance deadline for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s information blocking provisions to Nov. 2. “We’re following this closely and working to make sure our members are fully informed,” Savickis said.
CHIME conducted the online survey of CHIME’s membership between May 16 and June 1. All but nine states were represented through a spectrum of healthcare organizations, including academic medical centers, critical access hospitals, multi-hospital systems, standalone hospitals, specialty hospitals, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, behavioral health facilities and ambulatory/outpatient practices.
“We hear every day from our members about how IT has helped connect patients to physicians, caregivers and loved ones,” Branzell said. “In a time when physical distancing is critical for reducing the spread of this disease, digital technologies have provided hope and solace.”
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving chief information officers (CIOs), chief medical information officers (CMIOs), chief nursing information officers (CNIOs), chief innovation officers (CIOs), chief digital officers (CDOs) and other senior healthcare IT leaders. With more than 3,200 members in 56 countries and over 150 healthcare IT business partners and professional services firms, CHIME provides a highly interactive, trusted environment enabling senior professional and industry leaders to collaborate, exchange best practices, address professional development needs and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and care in the communities they serve. For more information, please visit chimecentral.org.
Director of Communications and Public Relations, CHIME