The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented increase in the implementation of telehealth across Wyoming.
In response to the shift in how health care is delivered, the Wyoming Telehealth Network (WyTN) recently surveyed telehealth providers across the state to assess their needs to better understand provider experiences implementing telehealth. Providers also were asked about their perceptions of patient experiences using telehealth and state-level changes needed to support telehealth implementation.
WyTN serves as a statewide hub, connecting residents with an interest in telehealth by providing access to telehealth technology, resources and education. The network is a legislatively mandated activity of the Wyoming Telehealth Consortium and is financially supported through the Wyoming Department of Health, Office of Rural Health and the University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences’ Wyoming Institute for Disabilities.
The 295 providers who responded reported having an average of 19.7 years working as health care providers and an average of 1.8 years implementing telehealth services. Respondents indicated that 59 percent of their patients are being seen via telehealth; 24 percent of providers are using telehealth as the primary modality for service delivery; and 57 percent currently are at or above 50 percent telehealth usage.
With providers indicating an already high use of telehealth, they generally anticipate continuing to provide high rates of services via telehealth for their current patients, and 35 percent of respondents indicated that they anticipated an increase in telehealth use.
Providers indicated various successes and challenges in transitioning to telehealth. Implementation has been smooth for many participants, but time and training have helped support what has been a steep learning curve due to COVID-19, according to the survey. Challenges included coding and billing issues; technology and internet access; and difficulty engaging with patients, particularly during new patient consultations.
Providers also indicated unanticipated benefits for their practices when using telehealth, including more flexible scheduling; the ability to see more patients in a day; and some patients being more comfortable and engaged during the appointments.
Respondents identified technology needs, including additional training on videoconferencing tools and providing technical support for their patients, as well as improved internet access. Providers also indicated that patients could benefit from more information and education on the telehealth process, and access to technology devices.
Asked about state-level changes that could support telehealth implementation, providers indicated ongoing insurance flexibility for coverage and reimbursement; increased internet and service access across the state; clear rules and regulations at the federal and state level; and ongoing financial assistance to patients and clinics.
To view an infographic of survey results, click here.
To learn more about WyTN, visit www.wyomingtelehealth.org.