Telehealth providers and insurance companies are noticing the use of telemedicine skyrocket, and all parties involved have to adjust to its increasing use. Below, Dr. Joel Arun Sursas takes a more in-depth look into what telehealth may look like in the wake of the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, healthcare providers and stakeholders were moving swiftly to expand the implementation of telehealth. But now in the era of COVID-19, when many healthcare providers had no choice but to implement telehealth services, we are seeing telehealth solutions being adopted in ways that far surpass any activity we have seen in the past five years combined [1].

The New Normal

Telehealth is the new normal, and it is here to stay. Healthcare professionals recognize that telehealth can replace in-person visits for many situations. While many healthcare providers were thrown into telemedicine visits during COVID-19, they learned that telehealth could be used for various consultations and patient monitoring. An initially difficult and taxing situation turned into an educational one, as telehealth has proven its effectiveness in virtual treatment.

Telehealth regulation is on a state-by-state basis, and we still see the regulation act as a bit of a hindrance for providers. There were exceptions made for the COVID-19 public health emergency, which temporarily allowed some of these restrictions to be reduced; they will soon expire, leaving telehealth providers with the burden of developing complex strategies to comply with state regulations.

The Future of Healthcare

A new report from McKinsey & Company shows that moving forward, virtual healthcare visits could account for about $250 billion, or 20 percent of what Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurers spend on outpatient, office, and home visits [2]. The report also shows that healthcare professionals are now seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than before COVID-19.

Without a doubt, this shift will continue when the pandemic is over, as patients and providers adjust to virtual visits’ convenience and efficiency. Telehealth provides an opportunity for patients to skip commutes to the doctor’s office, long times spent in waiting rooms, and the potential of contracting an illness. With these benefits, more and more patients seek the benefits of telehealth as opposed to traditional, in-person doctor’s visits.

According to the research, healthcare providers also noticed a favorable shift in the telehealth. Fifty-seven percent of them said they now view telehealth more positively than they did before COVID-19, and 64 percent say that they are more comfortable using it, according to the report by McKinsey & Company. With over half of health care providers in favor of telehealth over traditional methods and two-thirds of healthcare providers feeling literate with the technology, it certainly appears that telehealth is the newest preferred alternative to conventional medical practice.

Furthermore, the study found that about 20 percent of all emergency room visits could be avoided using virtual urgent care. Also, 24 percent of healthcare office visits and outpatient volume could be delivered virtually with an additional 9 percent being given “near-virtually.” This encouraging data could mean more beds in emergency rooms available to take care of acute injuries, less wasted time in high-paced medical centers like emergency rooms, and more efficient staffing.

The Benefits of Telehealth

The benefits of telehealth stretch much further than a temporary solution during COVID-19. Telehealth can permanently increase healthcare access in underserved areas, both geographically and in specific medical specialties, such as behavioral health. Telehealth could reach individuals who may not have otherwise have the resources to see a doctor in person and provide them with the care they need.

Telehealth can also improve the patient experience, make appointments quicker, and better health outcomes. These solutions can all work to make healthcare as a whole more efficient, more productive, and more cost-effective. For a health care industry plagued with inflated costs, telehealth presents excellent possibilities.

The window to act on telehealth is now. If COVID-19 taught us one thing, telehealth and the ability to get medical care from anywhere are extremely important. As telehealth continues to be implemented, McKinsey & Company estimates that a $3 billion revenue market can grow to $250 billion.

It’s clear to see that telehealth, which skyrocketed to popularity during COVID-19, is not going anywhere. From virtual office visits, virtual urgent care to remote patient monitoring, the possibilities of telehealth are endless.

About Joel Arun Sursas:

Joel Arun Sursas holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Bachelor’s Degree in Surgery from the National University of Singapore and is continuing his education to obtain a Certificate in Safety, Quality, Informatics and Leadership from the Harvard Medical School, and Masters in Applied Health Science Informatics from the Johns Hopkins University (both expected in 2020). His technical skills include SPSS, RevMan, and Python. Dr. Joel Arun Sursas‘ most recent engagement is with a medical device start-up company Biorithm where he serves as Head of Clinical Affairs, working to take fetal surveillance out of the hospital and into the home, revolutionizing the obstetric practice globally.

References

  1. “Around the Corner: The Future Of Telehealth After COVID-19.” The National Law Review, www.natlawreview.com/article/around-corner-future-telehealth-after-covid-19.
  2. Bestsennyy, Oleg, et al. “Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality?” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 1 June 2020, www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality#.

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