COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented advancement and adoption of Telehealth. Telemedicine (or Telehealth) is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the use of technology to provide and support healthcare at a distance. The advantages of such a remote link include enhanced access in which personal physicians may offer improved medical care for the patients.
The world has been facing a global health crisis since the start of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the onset of pandemic sweep through the United States, the number of hospital visits also dropped substantially.
As a result, the health systems worldwide began to adopt telemedicine, resulting in an exponential increase in telemedicine use, contrasting to the new practice’s previously slow adoption. Telehealth does not necessarily replace the in-person visit; it could be an addition to the in-person visit giving the patients the advantage of enhanced access.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer adoption of virtual primary care has witnessed a great leap forward, from 11% of U.S. consumers using Telehealth in 2019 to 46% of them now using it to replace cancelled healthcare visit, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Company’s COVID-19 consumer survey conducted recently. Telehealth Company, independent practices, and other healthcare organizations rapidly scaled telehealth offerings to fill the gap between need and cancelled in-person care. Providers are ready to shift to virtual care: 57% view Telehealth more favourably than they did before COVID-19, and 64% are more comfortable using it, says the survey.
Sustainability of the Potential of Telehealth
The gap between consumers’ interest in Telehealth (76%) and actual usage (46%)is one challenge the stakeholders face. A clear understanding of insurance coverage and telehealth systems are the main reason behind it..Healthcare systems that come out ahead will be those who act decisively, invest in building capabilities at scale, and deliver exceptional, high-quality care to consumers.”
Industry groups like the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) are demanding for the continuation of changes enacted by Congress and the administration
Telehealth also is drawing bipartisan support in American Congress. Necessary action from the part of healthcare providers and payers needed to ensure that the full potential of Telehealth is realized after the Covid 19 crisis has passed. Lasting change will have to come from Congress, but there will be more of an impetus now that Telehealth is getting its attention and recognition
A McKinsey’s study estimates that 20% of all emergency room visits could be avoided via virtual urgent care offerings, and 24% of healthcare office visits and outpatient volume could be delivered virtually. According to a new report, with increased Telehealth utilization by consumers and providers, a quarter of a trillion dollars in current U.S. healthcare spending could be diverted virtually. McKinsey’s survey also found that about 76% of consumers say they are highly or moderately likely to use Telehealth in the future. 74% of people who had used Telehealth reported high satisfaction. 57% view Telehealth more favourably than they did before COVID-19, and 64% are more comfortable using it, according to McKinsey’s recent provider surveys.
Steps industry stakeholders should take to drive the growth of Telehealth
However, challenges remain. Security, workflow integration, effectiveness compared with in-person visits, and the future for reimbursement are some of the providers’ concerns in the field. Telehealth as a reimbursable was made possible through an act by Congress in 1997. A lasting change in the act is possible only through another act of Congress.
“We’re seeing more and more people coming out of the woodwork to access telemedicine,” said Dr Blake McKinney, a practising ER doctor who is co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at CirrusMD. “.” As long as CMS’s telehealth reimbursement waivers are in place, hospitals can lean on the technology to replace some of their lost income and open up new revenue streams. But the coronavirus’s reign will end one day, and when that day comes, many hospitals – and patients – will want virtual primary care to remain a staple of U.S. healthcare.
There will be more of an impetus in the form of a legislative change to permanently make the telehealth sector changes. Once adapted to modern technology, people are unlikely to go back to the old system. . More people than ever before will tend to speak with their doctor using video conferencing technology using their home broadband connection.
To sum up, while it is difficult to precisely predict how much Telehealth will be relied upon once the pandemic is over, experts at the American Medical Association (AMA) agree that the concept or Telehealth will be used widely than it was before the pandemic.
Though some problems like poor connectivity, lack of best telemedicine platforms, and barriers to some aspects of medical examination and assessment will continue to drag the widespread adoption of Telehealth, with participation from stakeholders like patients, providers and government, the push to optimize the telehealth system are likely to gather momentum in the post Covid period.
Artificial Intelligence in Telehealth will bring into the system that particular tool that was never available before. It can short-circuit the traditional methods to improve treatment, cut costs, and provide better accessibility.
As McKinsey estimates, up to $250 billion, or 20% of all Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial outpatient, office, and home health spending could be done virtually, and Telehealth is poised to take a more significant share of the healthcare market.
The window to act is now. The present situation has facilitated an opportunity to modernize the system by embedding Telehealth in the care continuum at scale. A revenue market of $3 billion has the potential to grow to $250 billion. Healthcare systems that come out ahead will be those who act decisively to deliver exceptional, high-quality care to consumers.