The surge in telehealth during the pandemic promised to shed light on a crucial question: Does the convenience of telehealth drive up costs when patients make more appointments than they would in-person? The answer stands to shape investments in — and oversight of — the fast-growing field.
But three years in, the mountain of telehealth claims data has created a fresh set of questions, and left regulators, insurers, researchers, and health systems with a newfound recognition that virtual care might drive up visits and costs for some specialities and not others. And even if it does, they say — it’s not clear that it’s necessarily a bad thing.
“Higher spending is not always a bad thing if it means people are getting care that they weren’t able to get it before,” said John Hargraves, director of data strategy at the Health Care Cost Institute. “Yes, we want lower health care costs, but [we] don’t want the trade off to be lower quality, or not getting necessary care.”
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