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August 17, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Explosive growth and challenges for telehealth explored during afternoon sessions at “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival”

Have you experienced a telehealth visit since the COVID-19 pandemic hit? Chances are the answer is “yes.” That has certainly been true in my case.

During yesterday’s first-ever “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” delivered virtually, Vanderbilt University’s Larry Van Horn previewed an afternoon session focused on telehealth or telemedicine, depending on your preferred terminology, with some very interesting statistics. He’s an Associate Professor of Economics and Management at Vanderbilt University and a leading expert and researcher on health care management and economics.

Having been involved in an early telehealth initiative nearly three decades ago that involved the University of Tennessee Medical Center, it’s a topic that has always been of interest to me. More recently, we spotlighted the very positive impact that COVID-19 had on Anytime TeleHealth Inc., the parent of Anytime Pediatrics, in this article.

Here are the statistics that caught my attention.

  • Prior to March 15, there were seven million weekly in-person visits to physicians’ offices and almost zero telehealth visits outside the Teladoc Health scope. By mid-April, in-person visits dropped to a little more than a third of that number – 2.5 million, while telehealth jumped to one million a week. Those numbers have now stabilized for telehealth at about 500,000. That said, at its peak, the increase in usage was 80X.
  • Who is using telehealth? The answer is women.
  • Roughly 90 percent of the visits are between providers and their established patients.
  • The Northeast section of the U.S. has a more robust percentage of users with Rhode Island leading the country.
  • Many have suggested that telehealth is a solution for access for individuals in rural areas, yet Van Horn showed statistics noting that the technology is actually being used more in urban areas.
  • Not surprising, the specialties that are seeing the highest rate of use are internal and family medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics.

In a follow-on panel, Amber Humphrey, Director of Telehealth at Vanderbilt, said the medical center went from 10 direct telemedicine visits a day before the novel coronavirus to 2,000 a day at its peak.

“This is one of the most interesting outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Van Horn.


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