COVID-19 Drives 6,000% Growth in Telemedicine Use

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Last week, we launched two new enhancements to our platform: Rx Claims Data and Physician technology use. You can read more about the official launch on our website. You can also read more about the Rx claims launch on our blog.

In last week’s blog, we promised to share a little bit about what you can do with our new telemedicine data. So let’s jump right in!

Telemedicine use grew more than 6,000 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts estimate that the pandemic drove 10 years’ worth of telemedicine innovations in roughly 12 months. That might seem crazy, but when you dive into the numbers, it’s actually pretty easy to understand that growth—and what it might mean for your business.

According to Definitive Healthcare data, internal medicine and psychiatry had the highest volume of telemedicine claims in 2020.

Telemedicine utilization volume by specialty

Rank Specialty Telemedicine claims volume in 2020 % Increase over 2019
1. Internal medicine 157,852 680%
2. Psychiatry 147,181 24.5%
3. Social work 89,992 914%
4. Pediatric medicine 52,665 1,503%
5. Oncology (all subspecialties) 32,064 2,574%
Fig 1. Data is from Definitive Healthcare’s Physician database and Medical Claims database. The table does not include Nursing subspecialties, which account for 206,922 telemedicine claims. Claims data is from calendar year 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.
This breakdown isn’t particularly surprising. Even while quarantining and social distancing, people still got sick and managed chronic conditions, and they needed to see doctors. We also know that the pandemic caused a lot of stress for many individuals. Luckily, internal medicine and psychiatry providers were able to meet patients where they were — in their homes.
Healthcare providers and their patients got a lot more comfortable with delivering and receiving care over a computer screen or a mobile device. And this happened much more quickly than expected.

Why does it matter which physicians used telemedicine first?

This new information makes it easier to benchmark physicians against their peers. Understanding who is using telemedicine means you can identify early adopters — and who is lagging behind. These healthcare providers can now serve as experts, informing your business strategy.

The first physicians to embrace telemedicine understand which patients are good candidates for virtual medicine. They also know how to properly bill payors for their services and can anticipate common technological issues.

But you’re not just leveraging a physician’s knowledge — you’re also joining their network. Physicians may work at just one facility now, but they probably have a broad circle of peers at other health systems. Your team can establish a rapport with one physician expert. This expert is now your influencer, making is easier for you to gain the trust of your prospective accounts.

What about physicians who are not using telemedicine?

If you’re a technology vendor or someone whose product or service enables virtual care, then these physicians are your growth opportunities.

Physicians who are not yet using telemedicine, or who are not using it often, might be in the market for new technology. They could also need better training to understand the benefits of incorporating telehealth. Physicians who are already taking advantage of telemedicine may be looking for new and better ways to reach patients or advice on encrypting patient data. 

Let’s look at an example. 

Telemedicine Insights for Dr. John Smith

A graph showing telemedicine claims volumes for a particular physicianFig 2. This image is a screenshot of the Technologies section of the physician profile for an anonymized physician. Data is from Definitive Healthcare Physicians database. Telehealth claims are charted and scored using all-payor medical claims and a proprietary algorithm. Claims are from calendar year 2020. Accessed March 2, 2021.

This image is from a profile of a psychiatric physician from Indiana, who we will call Dr. John Smith to protect his privacy. The chart tells us Dr. Smith didn’t start billing for telemedicine services until the beginning of 2020, which probably means he only began delivering care virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

As the pandemic continues, Dr. Smith bills for telemedicine visits more frequently than his peers. The solid purple line shows Dr. Smith’s monthly telemedicine claim volume, while the dotted grey line shows the average telemedicine claims volume of his peers.

Even though his volume is higher than average, Dr. Smith is still a relatively new user of telemedicine. Because he has less than one year of experience delivering virtual care, his overall Definitive Healthcare telehealth score is relatively low.

Dr. Jones’ telehealth score indicates that, even though his volume of telehealth claims is higher than other providers, he may be using telehealth for smaller percentage of his patients. Therefore, he has the opportunity to continue to expand his telehealth utilization.

There is no question that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how doctors deliver care and how we, as patients, expect to receive it. We’re seeing new care delivery models emerge practically overnight, with corresponding new business models to support that care.

At Definitive Healthcare, we are proud to play a small part in helping providers, patients, and suppliers leverage these new care models to remove waste from the healthcare system and (perhaps) keep everyone just a little bit healthier.

Learn more

Would you like to learn more about Definitive Healthcare’s physician data? Visit the Physicians Database & Insights page for a full picture of the U.S. care provider market.

Are you interested in our larger product expansion, launched at the end of February 2021? Visit the Rx Claims Expansion page.

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