Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Tackling Telehealth

Tackling Telehealth

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center is committed to appropriately utilizing telehealth to fulfill our mission of service to patients, teaching, and research. Hard stop. This is one of President Lori Rice-Spearman and Dean Steven Berk’s top priorities—and with good reason. Later in this article, I will tell what some major companies are doing in this space.
A number of national reports, not surprisingly, point out that telehealth use is starting to slow down in the United States from its peak pandemic usage—Texas Tech Physicians usage spiked in November 2020 at 850 visits in a week.  We pivoted quickly and people got on board to make it happen. It helped us attend to our patients and it helped stabilize our revenue stream. According to Trilliant Health's national all-payer claims database, 38 million Americans, excluding traditional Medicare users, generated approximately 96 million video visits during COVID-19.  
Who were the primary users of the service? Well, all types. My 82-year-old mother-in-law loves Texas Tech Physicians’ telemedicine. Trilliant answers this question based on its analyses of who relied on telehealth most heavily during the course of the pandemic. The company found that women ages 30-39 were the most consistent users while women ages 20-29 were the fastest growing utilizers. We will run some studies at Texas Tech Physicians to see if this is our experience, just so we will know more about how to serve those needing the services.  Of course, patients are not limited to these cohorts. Some large American companies are bullish on telehealth, which tells us a lot.

According to Becker, UnitedHealth Group recently deployed a new telehealth product across all 50 states. Amwell, with whom we work, is working with Cleveland Clinic, Google Cloud and others to offer a product called Converge, a telehealth platform. There is another company called Ro, a direct-to-consumer telehealth app for pharmacy and other services that is working with more than 4,600 Walmart stores across the country. Last, a “little” company familiar to all of us, Amazon, is offering a telehealth service, Amazon Care.

Behavioral health heavily influenced telehealth demand throughout the pandemic, making up more than a third of all visits. Texas Tech Physicians has also consistently been utilized for behavioral health diagnoses more than medical diagnoses, according to our records. How wonderful that we have been able to help patients using this methodology.
We have a Task Force working on this under the auspices of the Clinical Affairs Council. You might be interested in seeing what we are calling domains (areas for exploration and development) to understand how we are tackling telehealth in our organization:

  • Reliable Platform Privacy
  • Medical Education
  • Quality and Compliance
  • Patient / Provider Experience
  • Service Offerings
  • Promotion and Managed Care Contracting
  • Work Processes

If you happen to have an interest in contributing to any of these areas, I would be happy to talk with you and hear your thoughts. Feel free to call my office or email me. BTW, my thanks go out to Dr. Billy Philips and Dr. Ariel Santos for their work on our telemedicine efforts.