Benefits go well beyond convenience
Not many people enjoy going to the doctor. There’s even a term — white coat syndrome — for the rise in blood pressure some of us experience when we’re in the doctor’s office for our appointments. That’s not even the only stress of a visit. You have to take time off work, then commute to the doctor’s office. For those in rural communities, getting to the doctor can be more than just a pain, it can be a huge undertaking. The rise in telemedicine services brought on by the pandemic has eased all that, and it might be one of the positive legacies that emerges from the whole experience.
With hospitals trying to limit the number of people coming in and out of facilities and being potentially exposed to the coronavirus, at times throughout the pandemic they have restricted physical access for all but critically ill patients. In response, they embraced telemedicine wholeheartedly. Prior to COVID, less than 1% of medical claims in the U.S. involved telemedicine, a number that shot up to 13% in April 2020. It’s not a passing outlier necessitated by social distancing. Five in 6 patients expect to use telemedicine for future appointments and two thirds of doctors say they’re motivated to use telemedicine more.
When doctors simply need regular check-ups with a patient to continue a prescription, it’s a huge time-saver for both parties. And the ease of use, with patients comfortably in their own homes, makes them much more likely to take advantage of preventive health measures. People often wait until they’re undeniably sick to go to the doctor, but as the old axiom goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When all they need to do is log on to a virtual appointment, however, people are far more likely to let their doctor know about that little nagging thing, and they aren’t limited by geography when it comes to consultation options. Telemedicine is also great for managing chronic disease and following up after surgery. There are definitely still some kinks to work out, but telemedicine is expected to be a $300 billion industry by 2028 with a CAGR of more than 20%.
“I have been in healthcare IT my whole career,” Connect America CEO Janet Dillione told HomeCare. “The past year has done for this pre-hospital virtual care space what the HITECH Act did for electronic medical records. The pendulum has swung. It perhaps won’t stay this far, but it’s not going back.”