Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption and usage of telehealth. Due to social distancing protocols, telehealth is being widely utilised by patients and healthcare providers. While different types of patients have used telehealth during this time, it has been especially essential for chronically ill patients, who require continuous medical attention, but are at a higher risk of developing the severe form of the Covid-19 disease, and hence need to strictly follow social distancing protocols. Additionally, Covid-19 patients are using telehealth services for diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and follow-ups.
Prior to the pandemic, the utilisation of telehealth was already rising. This was due to a growing elderly population and telehealth’s various advantages such as accessibility, convenience, and lower cost. The pandemic has significantly accelerated this growth. It essentially forced consumers, physicians, and payers to put away remaining reluctance and quickly become familiar with telehealth. The increased interest in telehealth was reflected in recent merger and acquisition activities as well. As an example, recently Teladoc, a telehealth company, acquired Livongo, a digital health company, in one of the largest deals for a US company in 2020. It remains to be seen if the accelerated growth of telehealth will continue after the pandemic has subsided.
During the pandemic, the US government has supported telehealth and relaxed and adjusted some of the requirements and reimbursement policies. Continued support from governments and payers and supportive regulatory and reimbursement policies are essential to the future of telehealth. Additionally, feedback from physicians and patients needs to be addressed to improve telehealth services and eliminate hindrances. Furthermore, privacy and data security concerns must be a top priority.
Overall, in many cases, it looks like patients who have become familiar with and proficient in using telehealth are likely to want to continue using this service. According to a recent public poll by GlobalData, the majority of respondents (63%) believed that the adoption and usage of telehealth will continue to increase after the pandemic has subsided; 20% believed that usage and adoption will remain a staple of the healthcare sector but adoption and usage will slow down, while 17% believed that adoption and usage will only remain high during the pandemic.