As the costs stemming from COVID-19 continue to climb, reinsurers are collaborating with healthcare executives on how to mitigate the impacts of the virus on the sector. Virtual health care options are becoming increasingly commonplace, and the growing use of telemedicine and capacity constraints within our healthcare system will potentially dull utilization increases.
For years, analysts have been predicting the shift toward virtual care, but it was COVID-19 that brought rapid acceleration to the space. While the pandemic has created immense public health challenges, it has also has revealed significant opportunity for employers to transform the role of virtual care and make it central to future benefit strategies, according to Tracy Watts, Senior Partner, National Leader for U.S. Health Policy, and Kate Brown, Principal and Leader at the Center for Health Innovation, both of Mercer. Mercer is an affiliate of Guy Carpenter.
Since the pandemic began, there has been unprecedented growth in people using telemedicine services like Teladoc and MDLive. According to Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, 88 percent of employers had a telemedicine program in 2019 but only 22 percent had utilization greater than 10 percent. In the early weeks of the pandemic, employers promoted the use of telemedicine both to triage COVID-19 symptoms and as an alternative to in-person visits that would reduce exposure risks. FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker reports that telemedicine utilization actually grew by more than 4,000 percent year-over-year in March. And early results from an ongoing Mercer survey show employers reporting high levels of satisfaction with their telemedicine program in terms of response time and member service during the pandemic, with 41 percent satisfied and 27 percent very satisfied.
This rapid change in health care delivery has created the opportunity to dramatically transform the way care is accessed in a very meaningful way for patients, providers and payers.
Guy Carpenter has been developing a view of how COVID-19 may impact the medical (re)insurance market.