Mental health care providers were some of the biggest adopters of telehealth during the pandemic. Today, roughly 60% of doxy.me’s users are mental health care providers.
The doxy.me research team wanted to discover how different mental health care professions perceived telehealth. In the summer of 2020, they conducted a survey that asked providers how likely they were to continue using telemedicine after the pandemic.
Who is most likely to continue using telemedicine?
As the chart above shows, social workers were the least likely to continue using telemedicine, while mental health counselors were the most likely. The study did not ask why providers wanted to continue or discontinue telemedicine, but we can speculate. For counselors, a face-to-face telemedicine visit closely matches an in-person session. On the opposite end of the spectrum, social workers often have a wider range of responsibilities that may require them to meet in-person or at a certain location: in the home, at a school, or at a clinic.
Provider type wasn’t the only factor that affected telemedicine usage. The team also discovered that the primary health insurance reimbursement type significantly affected a provider’s likelihood to continue using telemedicine.
Health insurance reimbursement types are the different ways providers receive money for services. The primary reimbursement type is the one used most often at a provider’s practice.
The survey asked providers for their primary reimbursement method and how likely they were to continue using telemedicine after the pandemic. The survey showed that providers who accept self-pay, or “out-of-pocket” pay, were the most likely to continue using telemedicine, whereas salaried providers were the least likely. Providers who rely on insurance—whether private or public—landed in the middle.
Telemedicine reimbursement has always been a factor in its adoption. During the pandemic, many insurance restrictions were set aside, making it easier to get reimbursement for telehealth visits. These changes are not permanent, and we expect restrictions to return after the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends. However, insurance reimbursement rules do not affect self-payment providers. This may explain why out-of-pocket providers were the most confident that they would continue using telemedicine post-pandemic.