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October 8, 2021

Telehealth is Here to Stay

New Health Fund Research Reveals that Kansas Providers See Future for Telehealth

After moving to temporarily expand access to telehealth early in the pandemic, its future is uncertain. A special committee will examine telehealth in preparation for the 2022 legislative session.

As the Legislature begins its discussion of telehealth and its impact on Kansans, the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (Health Fund) is releasing new qualitative research focused on provider experience with telehealth.

To better understand how Kansas providers experienced telehealth, the Health Fund commissioned in-depth interviews with health care providers and administrators throughout Kansas that indicate that telehealth is here to stay—if reimbursements remain equivalent compared to in-person visits.

The interviewees represented a cross-section of urban, rural, and multi-site health care providers. Most of them had not offered telehealth services prior to the pandemic. Providers have since invested in equipment and technology. A key finding, mirroring previous research, is that for telehealth to remain viable, future financial support is needed for system upkeep and visit reimbursement.

Summary of Providers’ Perspectives

A summary of the providers’ perspectives on telehealth includes:

  • Telehealth increases access to care for specific populations such as those who are homebound or without transportation
  • Telehealth provides important access to services from home, cutting down
    patients’ travel time and making it easier for patients to balance work and raising family with accessing care
  • Technology (telehealth platforms, internet connectivity, device availability) is a large barrier to implementation
  • Telehealth is well-suited for many kinds of care, such as chronic care management, patient education and 1-on-1 counseling by mental health or substance use disorder providers
  • Most want to continue reimbursement for telehealth services or other public policies

Kansans want telehealth to continue beyond the pandemic. Kansas providers have invested in infrastructure and training. Our state has an opportunity to sustain telehealth beyond the pandemic. An initial provider survey, a statewide poll of voters, co-funded by the Health Fund and REACH Healthcare Foundation, and this set of in-depth interviews are evidence that telehealth can play a significant role in improving health care access for Kansans.

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© United Methodist Health Ministry Fund