Following the dramatic decrease in patient volume and revenue seen across all specialty clinics in March, telehealth has emerged as an integral and sustainable tool in maintaining patients’ access to care. We previously found that Luma telehealth users have seen up to 92% appointment capacity utilization within just two months of implementation, along with significantly lower cancellation rates than those of non-telehealth users. It’s now been nine months since the original rollout of Luma’s telehealth solution, so let’s take a closer look at how clinics have been continuing to use virtual medicine.
After an initial spike in telehealth usage in May, the number of scheduled telehealth appointments decreased and remained consistent from June to October. Furthermore, the overall percentage of scheduled appointments that were conducted virtually decreased steadily from 32-35% to 25% by October. What is perhaps most notable about this graph, however, is the sharp increase we see from November onwards. Over half of Luma customers’ appointments — 54%, to be exact — were via telehealth in just the first two weeks of December.
Overlaying the number of scheduled telehealth appointments with monthly COVID-19 cases instead, you’ll notice that the trajectories of the telehealth inclusion rate and the case numbers are strikingly similar in the latter half of the year. The option of seeing a provider virtually may very well be the only option that many clinics and patients have, especially as we enter the winter months and several states reinstate shelter-in-place restrictions.
The following pie chart illustrates the diverse distribution of specialties using Luma’s suite of telehealth solutions:
Family medicine, ophthalmology, and primary care clinics comprise the majority of our telehealth users, with noteworthy numbers in multi-specialty and dermatology, as well. Now evaluating the specialty distribution at the appointment volume level, family medicine remains the forerunner by a large margin of 61.4%, followed by multi-specialty, mental health, and ophthalmology.
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A further breakdown of appointment types shows commonalities in how specialties have chosen to use telehealth. All specialties shown above, for example, heavily utilize virtual appointments for new patients, diagnostic tests, and post-procedural follow-ups, ranging anywhere between 10 and 75 minutes. Virtual behavioral health therapy sessions are also incredibly popular among multi-specialty, family medicine, and, naturally, mental health clinics. Over a third of all family practice telehealth appointments were for behavioral health, at nearly 20000 appointments booked between April and mid-December. Similarly, behavioral health constituted approximately 20% of multi-specialty telehealth appointments.
Several clinics have also managed to use telehealth to provide what might be considered more niche medical services that are difficult to administer outside an in-person setting. Luma’s family medicine clinics had over 1600 tele-dental appointments, for instance, and a singular sleep center had nearly 1000 appointments to help patients remotely set up ventilation devices to aid with sleep apnea. Some dermatology clinics have even held appointments with aestheticians via video.
While it is true that certain medical services — say, a surgery — cannot be provided via telehealth, it is important for patients to know that they still have options to receive the care they need. Being able to adapt care models amidst the pandemic has been critical in allowing clinics to maintain their revenue and their patient base, regardless of size and specialty. If you’re interested in learning more about Luma’s end-to-end suite of services, give us a shout. In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on how telehealth trends alongside the number of COVID-19 cases and the arrival of a new vaccine.