Connected Health Solutions and COVID-19 - UnitedHealthcare

by Parks Associates | Aug. 19, 2020

Ahead of the upcoming Connected Health Summit, Dr. Donna O'Shea of UnitedHealthcare shared her thoughts with us on how COVID-19 has impacted the connected health markets and how connected health solutions have shifted in the last year. Join her at the Connected Health Summit on September 1-3.

How has COVID-19 impacted the connected health markets?

We’ve seen a 10-fold increase in telehealth visits this year compared to a year ago, so we know people are increasingly interested. We also have had many of our providers offer telehealth to their patients. In 2018, less than 18% of providers offered this service. With COVID, that number reached over 50%.

How have consumer attitudes towards connected health solutions shifted in the last year?

The increased number of patients using telehealth show us the wide consumer acceptance of telehealth. Among telehealth users more broadly, 73% said they would likely use these resources again, while 81% said they had their health issue resolved during the first remote visit[1]. In terms of costs, telehealth visits are generally more affordable than other care settings, in some cases enabling people to access care with little out-of-pocket expense.

Will shifts in consumer behaviors related to fitness, wellness, chronic care management, and carefor senior populations outlast the COVID-19 crisis? How can solution providers keep consumers engaged over the long-term?

It is hard to know what life will be like after the COVID-19 crisis, however people have become more tech savvy and found how much easier it is to get care through things like telehealth – no driving, no parking, no missed work! And now we have even more ways to monitor you at home so you can really track your own health, whether for fitness or maybe in controlling your blood pressure or diabetes. You can have Bluetooth hold your data directly from your machines (CGM, BP cuff) and share with your doctor either real-time or at your next visit. As a senior, you don’t need to worry about transportation issues or how far you will need to walk and how many flights of stairs to see your doctor. The wait time is also often much less with a telehealth visit and that pleases everyone.

COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of our senior population -- how can independent living solutions best meet the needs of seniors and caregivers?

Independent living solutions vary so much. Telehealth and remote patient monitoring that is regularly offered can help track health changes occurring in the population so that early identification of conditions or an outbreak can be done and managed early to reduce the spread and severity of the situation.

The healthcare economy has been severely disrupted in this crisis, but regulations and reimbursement for connected health solutions are trending positive -- how will these competing forces impact the growth of the connected health market?

Patients will continue to want telehealth and doctors will want to continue to care for them. Telehealth provides health care and is now recognized as just another modality to provide patient care. As with any service a provider offers, there is discussion on reimbursement. Prior to COVID, the discussion may have been more yes or no, but I think now the discussion is more how to pay for it. We need more studies to determine quality measures, what conditions can and can not be treated and when does it need to be linked to an in-person visit. As providers move to value based care, the issue of how care is delivered will be overshadowed by the health care results measurable in the patient population to determine the value of the package of services rendered.

Next: Independent Living Solutions and COVID-19 - Insights from Care Planning Institute
Previous: The Upsurge of Telehealth Services


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