Before the spread of COVID-19, telemedicine and telehealth services were very unknown and growing at slow rates; they were being adopted into the world of healthcare and becoming familiar to healthcare professionals and patients.
A CivicScience study showed an increase from 18% to 30%, between February and March of 2020, of the number of people who reported they were using or had used telemedicine. Another study done by McKinsey and Company reported that about 1 in 3 patients cancelled upcoming in-person appointments due to COVID-19, with a similar number of people (30%) reporting they would be interested in online or over-the-phone visits with a physician. Medicare now includes telemedicine and telehealth in their coverage plans, although no adjustments have been made to costs of virtual visits (NASDAQ, 2020)
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) predicts that 50% of health services in the US will be virtual by 2030. Similar predictions are being echoed by Global Market Insights that the telemedicine market value will triple by 2026.
Virtual appointments have been especially helpful for patients with non-COVID related complications and patients with chronic medical conditions. Mental health therapy and counseling have also made a successful transition to online and virtual settings.
ABC News conducted an interview with the CEO of the ATA, Ann Mond Johnson, in March of 2020. Johnson described, “What telehealth can do is help both the clinicians as well as the consumer have access to service without actually getting exposed to the virus…it mitigates the risk. So, in that regard it’s incredibly valuable”. Doctors featured in that article believe that virtual visits are helping reduce the transmission of COVID-19 from patient to patient, and patient to doctor. They also believe that telehealth puts a much-needed ease on stressed time and resources of healthcare professionals.
Before the high demand of COVID-19, uptake of telemedicine appointments was slow because either customers were unaware of the ability to use telemedicine or insurance was not willing to cover telemedicine appointments.
Johnson believes that telemedicine will continue to be a major player in the world of healthcare even after COVID-19 has passed. She believes it will finally be “accepted for what it is – not telehealth but health.”