It’s hardly surprising that telehealth usage has increased over the past few months, considering its adoption was already growing at a steady rate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current crisis, though, has stretched many healthcare facilities’ resources beyond normal demands as they seek to manage the situation and ensure patients receive the care they need.
Some of the growth figures are remarkable, and point to the impact increased access to telehealth services can have, as federal and state agencies have waived many telehealth requirements to ensure patients are able to receive care.
- A family practice in Wilmington, Delaware, which has been offering virtual visits for several years, has seen telehealth appointments grow as much as 2,000%, from 20-25 per month to 15-20 per day.
- Massachusetts residents have started using telehealth much more since the beginning of the outbreak with a 260% increase across all age groups, with 500% growth among patients older than 60.
- NYU Langone Health physicians are engaging in 4,000 virtual visits a day on average, having recently expanded its telehealth practice.
- At the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, virtual visits have increased by 8,000%, from 100 a month to 350 a day.
These are only a few of many instances of significant increases across the country. The sudden increase, has led Frost & Sullivan to update its projections for the telehealth market. Originally estimated to grow by about 32% in 2020, the consulting and research firm now expects the market to double over the remainder of the year.
One of the growth drivers is the use of telehealth to triage COVID-19 patients to quickly potential cases and recommended actions. But, telehealth is also helping patients in many other ways, helping patients receive the care they need while reducing the flow of patients to clinics and hospitals. For patients with chronic conditions, for instance, remote patient monitoring can enable measurement of many vital signs, like blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose level, oxygen saturation, and more, while alerting physicians to any abnormalities.
There is a chance that usage will drop as the country recovers from the pandemic, as fears subside, and as social distancing protocols are eased. But, while many of the current use cases have been driven by extreme need during this crisis, it’s increased awareness of telehealth services, which could help accelerate its use under normal circumstances, now that the tools are in place.
In fact, 85% of patients say they have used or would consider using telehealth for issues related to COVID-19. Perhaps more importantly, only 15% say the pandemic has not increased their willingness to try telehealth in the future, and across all age groups, patients are looking for their providers to offer more telehealth services post-pandemic, including 81% of those 40-54 years old.
Over the course of the next year, many questions will be asked regarding how telehealth should be used going forward, and what temporary regulatory changes should be made permanent, or at least how previous regulation should be adapted in light of the success of connected health over the past months.
Is it possible that COVID-19 could be a silver lining to the healthcare industry and provide the momentum needed to push connected health closer to mainstream adoption?
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