Telemedicine is the future. In 2019, more than 75% of U.S.-based hospitals used video to connect with their patients, and in just the first quarter of 2020, there were over 1,500,000 telehealth visits. 18% of the United States GDP is healthcare-related, and virtual healthcare has a 4.8% compound annual growth. Currently, telehealth is a $20 billion industry that’s expected to reach $186.5 billion in 2026. The business of telemedicine has arrived.
Telemedicine is booming thanks to its many facets. Telemedicine provides remote clinical services such as diagnosing conditions, screening symptoms, providing mental health services, low-risk urgent care, and delivering specialist consultations. In contrast, telehealth is much broader and provides virtual non-clinical health services. This includes telepharmacy, fulfilling medications, chronic condition support, physical and occupational services, and the facilitation of provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing education.
Even though telehealth is less than 100 years old, it is maturing at an incredible speed. Telehealth started in the 1920s, where radio was used to give medical advice to ship clinicians. By the 1970s, telehealthcare services were provided to remote rural communities living in Alaska. During the next few decades, telemedicine grew in popularity and even veterinarians are offering telehealth services. Now, there are many different types of telehealthcare platforms. Video calls, mobile health, texting services, and remote patient monitoring are just a few of the virtual platforms available for telehealth.
COVID-19’s Impact on Telemedicine
Due to the pandemic and new technologies, the business of telemedicine will continue to grow. COVID-19 forced many to try telehealth for the first time. 61% of Americans have now had at least one telehealth appointment, which is a 3x increase since March 2020. In the first three months of 2020, there were over 1,500,000 telehealth visits. 69% of telehealth patients managed their health concerns during the pandemic with telehealth guidance.
By innovating solutions, the barriers to telehealth are being removed. Limited access to the internet affects 41% of the population, but this issue is currently being solved by federal broadband initiatives. In addition, licensing used to prevent physicians from treating patients across state lines, but recent legislation is allowing telehealth practitioners to do so. Patient privacy was a concern for the majority of the population, but consumers are growing more comfortable with their private medical records in the cloud.
In addition, the business of telemedicine is helping those in need and increasing health access with new technology. Apps and phone gadgets allow patients to get medical care from anywhere. MedWand, a diagnostic tool, Headspace, a mental health app, and AliveCor, an app that converts your phone to an electrocardiogram, are just a few of the many apps available. Wearables like sensor-embedded clothing and smartwatches allow patients to constantly monitor their health. There are even mail-in labs available to test for allergies, food sensitivities, genetic information, and COVID-19.
The future of medicine is just a few taps away. Now that most people have tried it, they want the business of telemedicine to continue. 82% of Americans say telehealth makes it easier for them to get the care they need. There is no need to take time off of work to commute, and 31% of patients say their healthcare costs decreased when using telehealth. Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, stated, “In an age where the average consumer manages nearly all aspects of life online, it’s a no-brainer that healthcare should be just as convenient, accessible, and safe as online banking.”