The future of medicine is just a few taps away. Telehealth is less than 100 years old but is maturing at an unprecedented rate. Starting in the 1950s, closed-circuit television systems allowed communication between hospitals. In the 1970s, telehealth provided medical care to rural communities in Alaska. By the 1990s, videoconferencing for healthcare skyrocketed, leading to today. Even veterinary hospitals offer telehealth services. Virtual healthcare has a compound annual growth rate of 4.8%. Currently, telehealth is a $20+ billion-dollar industry that is expected to reach $186.5 billion by 2026.
In 2019, more than 75% of U.S.-based hospitals used video services to connect with their patients. COVID-19 has encouraged many to try telehealth for the first time. In just the first quarter of 2020, there were over 1,600,000 telehealth visits. Currently, 61% of Americans have had at least one telehealth appointment, a 3x increase since March 2020. Now that many have tried it, most Americans want telehealth to continue. 80% believe telehealth offers the same quality of care as in-person visits, which is up from 56% before the pandemic.
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine offers remote clinical services and is used to diagnose conditions, screen symptoms, offer low-risk urgent care, deliver specialist consultations, and provide mental health services. Telehealth provides remote non-clinical services and is much broader, including fulfilling medications, chronic condition support, and physical and occupation services. Telehealth is booming thanks to its many formats. Various virtual healthcare platforms include video calls, mobile health, remote patient monitoring, texting services, software such as Nurx or BetterHelp, and phone calls.
In addition to its rising popularity, the barriers to telehealth are being removed. Public skepticism has gone down; the vast majority of studies show patients now prefer telehealth over in-person visits. Patient privacy was a concern for 66% of adults, but consumers are growing more and more comfortable with their private medical records in the cloud. There were concerns of misdiagnoses, but studies show no significant difference between in-person and telehealth diagnoses. Additionally, 41% of patients have limited access to the internet, but this problem is being solved with Federal broadband initiatives.
What is Telehealth?
Telehealth implements many new technologies. Apps and smartphone gadgets such as MedWand, a diagnostic tool, and Headspace, a mental health product, are new apps that contribute to overall wellness. Mail lin labs for allergies, food sensitivities, genetic testing, and testing for COVID-19 is another technology available. Wearable devices such as sensor-embedded clothing and smartwatches can also help patients track their medical needs.
Telehealth is helping those in need by innovating solutions. Holistic healthcare includes the fields of cardiology, pulmonology, and endocrinology. Remote clinical services such as blood pressure monitors, anticoagulation testing, and ECG devices, are all tools that help measure various health markers. Currently, 28% of consumers use tech to moderate their health. In addition, telehealth programs increase access. This healthcare method can serve high-risk or rural locations, increase healthcare cost parity, help control and diagnose low-incidence diseases, and patients can save up to three hours commuting or around 100 miles of travel.
82% of Americans say telehealth has made it easier to get the care they need. Telehealth has also expanded access to acute care. 59% of Medicare patients have access to a laptop. Telemedicine has also lowered healthcare costs, with savings estimates anywhere from 17% to 75%. Additionally, 22% of the United States population will be older than 65 in 2050, and telemedicine is helping the older population that requires needs-based healthcare.
What are the benefits of telehealth?
The benefits of telehealth are evident. Not only does telehealth increase access, but it also increases patient satisfaction and retention by 81.5%. Telemedicine is more convenient; there is no need to take time off work or commute to the doctor’s office. Many feel less anxiety and fear when seeing a doctor remotely, increasing comfort. In addition, 31% of patients say their healthcare costs decreased when using telehealth.
Patients now expect their doctors to provide telehealth and digital tools. 90% of physicians have experience with remote treatment, and 77% want a shift towards telehealth. Over 75% of patients would consider using telehealth, and 83% of patients expect to use it after 2020. Jonathan Linkous, the CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, states, “In an age where the average consumer manages nearly all aspects of life online, it’s a no-brainer that healthcare should be just as convenient, accessible, and safe as online banking.”