The Future of Care Demands a Virtual Health Ecosystem
Telehealth usage skyrocketed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data from EHR vendor Epic Systems, telehealth visits peaked in mid-April, when telehealth accounted for 69 percent of all ambulatory care visits. Although the percentage dropped to 21 percent by mid-July, telehealth usage is still much higher than it was at pre-pandemic levels.
In the last year, telehealth has gotten a lot of attention from investors. Amwell went public and Teladoc acquired Livongo for a record $18 billion, and analysis from Rock Health shows that virtual healthcare companies raised $9.4 billion through Q3 2020.
Obviously, not all healthcare can be done virtually, but the potential exists to build an entire virtual health ecosystem that could enable more patients to access the care they need, keep patients in low-risk care settings, and contribute to better outcomes at lower costs. They are:
- Remote monitoring. The true potential for remote monitoring will be realized when data from medical devices, sensors, and wearables syncs with EHR systems and virtual care platforms.
- Remote diagnostics. This embrace of remote diagnostic tools can be expanded beyond AI-powered COVID-19 symptom checkers to other conditions, from low-acuity care such as flu and allergic reactions to chronic conditions such as sleep disorders or high blood pressure.
- Chronic care management. Multimodal platforms from vendors such as Lark, Propeller Health, and Omada empower patients to manage chronic conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, or Type 2 diabetes through a combination of remote monitoring, health coaching, evidence-based care plans, and lifestyle management.
- Mental health. Platforms such as AbleTo, Hims, and Teladoc reduce barriers to mental health care while enabling providers to get a firsthand look at a patient’s home and how it may be impacting their mental health.
- Care team collaboration. Tools specifically tailored for remote consultation will play a much more significant role in team collaboration than stopgap platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom that were used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Medication adherence. Many solutions have emerged to support patients who need help taking medication as directed.
COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of telehealth by healthcare providers and patients alike. It is now critical for the industry to keep building momentum by expanding the capabilities of virtual care in a way that helps patients, providers, and payers.
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