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Telehealth programs have become almost a given at healthcare organizations, but they’re still underutilized — and their potential impact is often underestimated.

The seventh annual telehealth benchmark survey from Becker’s Healthcare and Teladoc Health uncovered two data points seemingly at odds:

A whopping 91% of healthcare leaders surveyed said they have a telehealth program in place. But the majority also said that less than 10% of patient visits in the last 12 months were provided through telehealth.

Why? Well, it’s not because only 10% of visits would make sense as telehealth visits.In fact, nearly 40% of respondents estimated that 20% to 50% of patient care could be delivered virtually.

So what’s standing in the way?

Here’s a look at some of the key barriers to wider telehealth use and how telehealth-centric AI can have an impact.

Barriers to wider telehealth adoption

A few key challenges seem clear from the survey:

  • Telehealth infrastructure and workflows: Given the complex, often-siloed nature of EHRs, scheduling systems, and telehealth platforms, it can be tough to fold virtual care into existing operations in a way that’s both effective and efficient, without fragmenting data and increasing support costs.
  • Patient and provider buy-in: Organizations need to feel confident they can deliver virtual care without compromising staff and patient satisfaction (two of the factors those surveyed considered consider most important in having a successful telehealth program). As Andy Puterbaugh put it in the report, “If providers can’t deliver great care and patients don’t feel like they’re getting great care, telehealth doesn’t really matter.”
  • Payer incentives: Consistent and comparable reimbursement between telehealth and in-person visits is key to encouraging providers to embrace and expand their telehealth offerings. And to incentivize payers, we need to ensure virtual care quality.

Sounds daunting.

But we have a new tool in our kit: AI.

How AI can make an impact

From streamlining documentation to supercharging data analysis and quality assurance, AI can help bridge the gap between the care we offer today and the care we’ve always wished we could offer.

With AI, we can:

  • Automate admin and data-sharing: AI can automate documentation and improve the integration of telehealth data into EHRs and other systems, freeing staff of the burden of manual data entry and ensuring a unified patient record. The result: More accurate records, less staff burnout and easier buy-in.
  • Improve care quality: AI can offer clinicians real-time guidance and support that empowers them to practice at the top of their license. The result: Higher-quality care, more confident clinicians and more satisfied patients.
  • Demonstrate value to payers: AI can track clinical outcomes and automate QA on 100% of visits based on an organization’s best practices. The result: Clear evidence for the quality and effectiveness of virtual care (which means greater access).

Telehealth hasn’t reached its full potential yet, but healthcare leaders can see the path ahead:

Far-reaching, high-quality virtual care, driven by talented clinicians, supported by AI tools.

Waleed Mohsen

Author Waleed Mohsen

Waleed Mohsen is the CEO and founder of Verbal. He has been named a UCSF Rosenman Innovator and has over 10 years of experience working with leaders of hospitals and medical institutions in his business development roles at Siemens and Cisco

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