Telehealth has become a growing part of healthcare with major publications and government agencies alluding to its increased prominence, including McKinsey & Company, Medical Economics, and the CDC. In 2020, McKinsey and Company reported that 76% of survey respondents indicated they were “highly to moderately likely” to use telehealth services. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the adoption of Telehealth is predicted to expand to a $250B industry. A few things that make telehealth attractive are its ability to provide quick and effective doctor’s consultations, ease of access to physicians, and economic advantages to employers looking to cut down healthcare expenses. Because of these benefits, telehealth is not expected to go anywhere, even after the pandemic.
5 Fast Facts About Telehealth:
- Telehealth saves patients over 90 minutes and costs less than an in-person visit
- Patients using telehealth went up from 11% in 2019, to 46% in 2020
- 43% of hospital visits were via telehealth in April of 2020
- Telehealth is projected to grow to a $185B industry by 2026
- 83% of patients plan to use telehealth after COVID-19
Benefits of Telehealth:
There are several benefits to telehealth which is why it's an appealing option in healthcare insurance plans:
- It requires no wait time or office visitation.
- It increases the availability of appointments, and they’re much easier to accommodate into your busy schedule.
- From a preventative standpoint, telehealth reduces the risk of spreading infectious diseases such as COVID-19 to immunocompromised patients.
In some cases, virtual health visits can offer practitioners a better assessment of patients. For example, a doctor, though unable to view symptoms in-person, can see the patient’s home environment. They could glean extra information about things in their home that cause or exacerbate the patient’s condition. With permission from the patient, virtual health also allows family members to participate in the virtual visit by helping to provide input on the patient’s needs. Telehealth features or apps can help family members and caregivers stay informed with up-to-date information from the patient’s doctor. This makes it a lot easier for families who may be separated from their parents, for example, to keep tabs on their health (Johns Hopkins).
The Convergence of Medical Devices and Telehealth
Medical device manufacturers are always looking to address patients' concerns. The convergence of healthcare and direct-to-consumer (DTC) MedTech is powerful, but it may take a while for it to become mainstream due to potential federal regulations. In 2020, many state and federal regulations on telemedicine were waived due to the pandemic making in-person visits a higher health risk to many patients. They were also waived to protect healthcare providers against “liability for failure to meet burdensome telemedicine requirements” (MDDI Online). Many of these federal and state regulations have to do with fraud and abuse risks associated with telehealth, which are of greater concern since the regulations were waived. What is not clear, is whether these waived state and federal telehealth regulations will return post-pandemic. Though it may take time for healthcare providers to become compliant with rigorous requirements, telehealth is reportedly here to stay and expand post-pandemic.
What is clear is that medical devices will play a role in the efficacy of telehealth. With at-home DTC devices, health professionals understand the patient's condition without seeing them in-person ASAP. We can expect to see medical devices that are purpose-built for telehealth so that physicians can examine a patient as accurately as possible while remote. For example, if you’re a wheelchair user suffering from pressure sores or foot ulcers, and cannot get an appointment with a dermatologist or podiatrist-—a device designed for various physical conditions that takes high-quality photos would be helpful for you to get quick feedback from your doctor in the interim. With thoughtful and meticulous R&D, medical devices won’t sacrifice accuracy of diagnosis for ease-of-use and time.
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