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July 31, 2020

Updox Customer Survey: The Economics of COVID

How the pandemic changes the ways healthcare providers run their businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in all of us living our lives differently. Many businesses were forced to close or abruptly adapt daily operations or customer service. The impact on healthcare was especially strong and swift. The novel coronavirus forced healthcare practices to quickly transform their businesses to remain open to care for patients.

As stay-at-home restrictions begin to lift, uncertainty of what the future holds remains. One thing is certain - a new precedent for healthcare has emerged. As we look ahead, healthcare will continue to transform at a rapid pace as providers continue to transform their practices to deliver the best in-person and virtual care.

In May 2020, Updox surveyed almost 700 healthcare providers, including physicians, pharmacists and nurse practitioners, to understand the impact of telehealth during COVID-19 and how perceptions changed pre-COVID vs. now.

The three most common ways respondents reported their practices were impacted by the pandemic were:

  • Limiting in-office visits to reduce exposure – 84.0%
  • Increased questions from patients – 57.2%
  • Financial hardship - 49.5%

What were immediate actions?

COVID-19 had a dramatic impact on telehealth adoption and importance. When faced with patients scared to come into the office, providers and staff worried about how to protect themselves while delivering care and the always-present need for healthcare, providers turned to telehealth as a way to keep their doors open (and revenue streams flowing) while safely and securely delivering care and protecting themselves.

Prior to the pandemic, just 18.7% of respondents said their practice offered telehealth. Of those, the majority reported less than 25% of practice visits were offered via telehealth (66.7%) and found telehealth to be slightly important to not important at all (58.1%).

During the pandemic, 93.8% of respondents said their practice offered telehealth and, of those, 60.2% reported more than 50% of practice visits were offered via telehealth and 81.6% found telehealth very or extremely important. Both prior to and during the pandemic, there were three main visit types offered via telehealth:

  • Medication management
  • Chronic disease management
  • Sick visits  

Where do we go from here?

Many practices are concerned about how long it will take for the industry to rebound to pre-pandemic visit and reimbursement levels. The majority of respondents said either “too soon to tell” (29.8%) or 2-3 months (22.7%). Practices who chose Updox for telehealth were more certain that they back up and running at pre-COVID-19 visit and reimbursement levels in 2-6 months compared to those who selected another partner for telehealth (45.9% vs 34.8%).

As practices work to rebuild, respondents indicated their top three priorities were:

  • Running a profitable business/practice
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Patient outcomes

Telehealth preference grows for patients and providers

As practices transition to the post-COVID-19 world, telehealth will remain extremely important. More than 56% of respondents report telehealth to be very to extremely important to the future of their practice. Most respondents from multi-location practices and health systems anticipate 26-50% of visits to be offered via telehealth (26.2% and 33.3%), while solo/independent practices anticipate only 10-25% of visits to be offered via telehealth (26.7%).

Patients have also indicated a preference for telehealth in a post-COVID environment. In a recent Updox survey, 42 percent of Americans said they have used telehealth services since the pandemic began and 82 percent of that group said they love/like telehealth services.  When asked about their preferences for using telehealth following COVID-19, 51% of respondents said convenience was most important to them, and 49% said that they wanted to be able to choose their provider rather than be assigned a healthcare professional for telehealth services.

It is safe to say that telehealth will be a mainstay for practices with 95.2% reporting they plan to offer telehealth in the future. It’s become no longer a “nice to have” but now a “must have” requirement to stay in business. Respondents anticipate the main visit types offered via telehealth to remain the same as pre-pandemic:

  • Medication management
  • Chronic disease management
  • Sick visits  

Survey metrics: A customer survey was developed in Qualtrics and sent to current Updox customers via email and in-app. The survey consisted of 47 questions and was open from May 15, 2020 to May 26, 2020.

Topics: Blog, telehealth, telehealth services, covid-19