As with any disruptive healthcare innovation, it takes time, validation, and the right catalyst before it becomes fully embraced across the medical community. With the coronavirus pandemic, one innovation is at the forefront of transforming the healthcare landscape – telemedicine.
Since February 2020, telemedicine grew from less than 1% of primary care visits to nearly 43.5% in April 2020. With telemedicine’s current trajectory and rapid adoption rate, it has the potential to disrupt and redefine the way health systems operate, deliver care and manage costs, setting the stage for a vastly different healthcare experience in the future.
To illustrate the impact telemedicine will make in the future, we asked healthcare leaders and telemedicine providers from multiple specialties how they anticipate telemedicine reshaping the future healthcare landscape.
1. Telemedicine will become a standard service offered across all care settings
“With patients becoming accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to go back. The box is open,” as predicted by Atlanta Neurologist, Dr. Jeffrey English.
Telemedicine has steadily grown over the past decade, but the pandemic skyrocketed its adoption. At its current trajectory, Forrester estimates that we’ll see over 1 billion telemedicine visits by the end of 2020.
President of VirtualMed Staff, Jack Williams, agrees, “Continued growth in telehealth will be sustained for years to come. The common thread will be easier access to healthcare, which will generate confidence and drive growth.”
2. Patients will choose providers, health systems, and hospitals based on telemedicine access
“When patients feel their care is as good or better than a routine visit in person, all from the comfort of home, those same patients will no longer endure long wait times when it is avoidable,” Williams explains. “Telehealth will redefine patient expectations in all facets of quality healthcare.”
With patients growing more accustomed to virtual care, health systems that lack telemedicine access will see decreased patient volumes from patients choosing providers that do offer telemedicine.
As Dr. English describes, “naysayers to disruptive technology” will eventually have to add telemedicine to their patient care offering. As patients become more accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, hospitals that do not will see a clear decline.
3. Medical facilities that embrace telemedicine will see business and revenue growth
“Patients are now requesting telemedicine. We’ve seen volumes and business increase significantly this year because the competition was slower to adopt and offer telemedicine,” reveals Dr. Tom Tuzel, a New York Psychiatrist.
Hospitals have experienced a significant drop in revenue and patient volumes from COVID-19. The AHA estimated that U.S. Hospitals lost an estimated $202.6 billion from March to June, alone. Now and in the future, telemedicine is a revenue source that can safeguard against future troughs in healthcare.
4. Telemedicine will become an efficient option for preventative care
According to the CDC, chronic diseases that are avoidable through preventative care services account for 75% of the nation’s healthcare spending. By offering more convenient access to follow-up care, specialists for faster diagnosis, and telemedicine treatment, hospitals will demonstrate fewer readmissions, complications, inpatient stays, and reduce higher cost treatments and services.
“The goal of the future care is preventative and to make as many adjustments early on. How do you do that in a cost-effective, time-effective manner? With technology and telemedicine services,” says Dr. Tuzel.
5. Access to specialists will become the norm, which will benefit hospital wait times
“There will be specialty centers where hospitals can call in and have 24/7 access to a network of physicians who are experts in their specialty areas,” explains Dr. English.
With immediate access to a wide range of physician specialists, these facilities can offer patients expanded access to focused care. In turn, this would improve the overall patient experience and reduce the cost of hiring full-time staff on-site.
“In the past, doctors would tell a patient, ‘You need to see a neurologist. Here’s the number,” Dr. English continues. “Now, the doctor can say, ‘You need to see a neurologist, let’s connect with one now.’”
As technology innovations evolve healthcare and patient expectations, preparation becomes more critical. Telemedicine is here to stay and is easier than ever to adopt with a technology-neutral partner like VirtualMed Staff.