Will COVID-19 Spark the Telehealth Revolution?

Telehealth Before COVID-19 Pandemic

Telehealth or telemedicine is the use of electronic communication, such as video calls, digital photography, instant messaging, telephone, and email, to provide clinical services to patients, without an in-person patient visit. This allows the patient to bypass waiting rooms and driving time when going in for appointment. In recent years, telehealth has greatly increased in popularity as doctors have adopted it for follow-ups, medications management and remote consultations. The appeal of telehealth is obvious as it allows for doctors and patients to meet without the inconvenience of getting to and from the doctor’s office.

Over the last decade the popularity of telemedicine has increased greatly. Over half of all hospitals in the United States had implemented telemedicine in one way or another before the end of 2019. One of the main reasons for this growth was due to the need to reduce the cost of patient care and increase access to doctors.

Increase in Telehealth Visits During Pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popularity of telehealth has skyrocketed in 2020. Many physicians and their patients were forced to utilize telehealth for visits to avoid the risk of exposure to COVID-19. As Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services stated, “Countless clinicians and beneficiaries received important care while avoiding unnecessary exposure to the virus. Now that providers and patients have had a taste, it’s difficult to imagine the telehealth genie going back into the bottle.”

It is very likely that the pandemic has caused a behavioral shift in how Americans “visit” the doctors office. In May, McKinsey & Company Health Care Systems & Services predicted that telehealth spending could increase over $300 billion compared to only $3 billion in 2019.

The Future of Telehealth

Telehealth is here to stay. With more and more patients and physicians becoming comfortable with doctor-patient visits through telehealth platforms, the demand for those services will grow. Telemedicine provides low cost, quick access to medical professionals, and reduced risk of transmitting contagious diseases. In the near future, we can expect almost all healthcare providers to offer some sort of telehealth services.