While the telehealth market did not initially grow as quickly as the industry may have hoped, adoption is on rise and the market is expected to see strong growth in the coming years, reaching nearly $20 billion by 2025.  The market growth is a reflection a number of factors that are driving increased use of telehealth services that are also increasing its availability and benefits across the healthcare continuum.

Evolving use cases

While only a few years ago, two-way video dominated telehealth use, between physician-to-physician and patient-to-physician consultations, new use cases continue to emerge as providers seek to increase the value of their telehealth systems.  In addition to chronic and elderly care, where telehealth is enabling patients to receive care in more comfortable settings, conditions that can be treated successfully with telehealth are growing, including mental health conditions, pediatric care, and opioid addiction.  As uses for telehealth services continue to emerge, they will ultimately pave the way for a healthier society.

Improved Policy

Lack of improved legislation and over-arching policy around telehealth services coverage has inhibited its use and, while many telehealth applications are not yet covered, recent activity at both state and Federal levels are positive steps toward creating better reimbursement standards for telehealth services and set the stage for continued progress.  As coverage standards continue to evolve, reimbursement for new and additional telehealth services will continue to drive adoption.

Patient Demand

The underlying technology making telehealth services possible has been available for more than a decade, but has met with limited acceptance in healthcare settings.  However, a technology-friendly society and generally available broadband access, along with proven benefits from telehealth services, have created a healthy appetite for telehealth among patients.  In fact, more than three-quarters of Americans have indicated a desire for virtual care.  Specifically, today’s digital natives – Gen Xers and Millennials – have proven more likely to seek faster, more convenient and less expensive healthcare services, such as walk-in clinics.  It also means they aren’t tied to their PCP, like previous generations have tended to be.  That, combined with the familiarity with and preferences for on-demand digital services, offer a tremendous opportunity for telehealth growth by taking the benefits of walk-in clinics to an even higher level by leveraging the technologies these generations prefer.

Physician Buy-in

Slightly more than half (56%) of healthcare organizations have adopted some form of telehealth, while another 24% are actively engaged in finding and implementing solutions, while the remaining 20% are begging to learn about options.  Among those that have not yet started leveraging telehealth, the overwhelming majority (86%) say doing so is a priority.  As more facilities add telehealth capabilities, more doctors and patients will have access and will begin using them.  Furthermore, as doctors within healthcare systems see the benefits, there is a good chance they will seek to increase their use and even drive expansion of services to other conditions and patient populations.  As more doctors become comfortable with and increase their use of telehealth, they will also help close the gap created by the current physician shortage, further incentivizing patients and doctors to increase their use of the technology as an alternative to traditional office or hospital visits.

Patients, healthcare systems, insurance providers, and governments all have a role to play in continuing the momentum building around telehealth adoption.  Trends are pushing the market – both providers and patients – in the right direction, and the result is an increased use of telehealth.  To find out how your business can increase its capabilities with telehealth services, click here.

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