There’s no question telehealth is now mainstream. It’s convenient, safe and supports healthcare cost-savings. It also provides an opportunity for the industry to expand access to care and provide a better healthcare consumer experience.

But what’s next? Consumer utilization of virtual care has decreased and the boom era of growth has stabilized. How will virtual care continue to evolve and deliver on its promises?

As a starting point, we’ve rounded up several insights from our Carenet Health experts that illustrate how we think telehealth will transition and eventually mature in the coming months.  

First: When it comes to on-demand, 24/7 telehealth services, the check-the-box approach must evolve.

To spur continued growth, telehealth is going to need to evolve into a true digital front door that modernizes the healthcare experience for all. Optimizing and enhancing telehealth options so they work across the healthcare ecosystem should be top of mind for payers and providers today.

There’s increasing interest in using registered nurses to triage virtual care first, to free up e-consult physicians and provide efficient care at a lower cost

Taking a virtual-first approach for preventive and primary care—one that could even begin with a call to a nurse triage center—may also inspire change. Not only could this strategy relieve overburdened in-person care settings, but it also has the potential to streamline costs beyond preventing emergency department (ED) visits. 

Behavioral health has already seen higher levels of telehealth adoption, with the topmost penetration in psychiatry (50%) and substance use treatment (30%). Establishing virtual clinics that offer mental health crisis care without a referral—and speeding time to receiving care—is an idea that’s gaining ground. Emergency telemedicine and physical teletherapy are two other areas we expect to begin to really lean into telehealth. 

Perhaps most exciting, telehealth stands to become a more powerful connector. During a single visit, practitioners and physicians could use telehealth to have all members of a care team present at the same time with a patient. For chronic care management, telemedicine visits could also expand a care team’s ability to communicate with patients when they need care during evenings and weekends.

Next: Better consumer education, assistance and connectivity are necessary to sustain telehealth growth.

While more people than ever before are comfortable using telehealth, paying attention to trends among different populations will help ensure adoption. A healthcare consumer’s age, gender, whether they live in a rural or more urban setting—all of these factors will come into play as the healthcare ecosystem relies more on telehealth in the future. 

To keep the momentum going, payers, providers and telehealth partners will need to work together to support and educate healthcare consumers about virtual care options.

Leveraging automated and AI-driven messaging and personalized engagement will help bridge the gap between interest and successful use of telehealth by seniors, underserved populations and rural residents. Transparency will also go a long way toward building trust and satisfaction with patients.

As telehealth grows, so will questions from healthcare consumers. In addition to one-on-one engagement tactics, placing engagement coordinators or registered nurses at the digital front door can make navigating options easier and more efficient.

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Read more about these trends and learn about two additional telehealth trends to watch by downloading our trend brief, What’s on the Horizon for Telehealth? Four Trends to Watch.

Be sure to browse our other timely telehealth and engagement content on the Carenet Health Resource Center available at https://carenethealthcare.com/resource-center/.