Telehealth, also called telemedicine, refers to using electronic communication and information technologies to provide healthcare services remotely. It includes consultation, diagnosis, treatment, education, and other healthcare-related services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought telehealth to the forefront to reduce the risk of virus transmission while still providing essential healthcare services.
With the adoption of telehealth, patients can access healthcare services from the safety and comfort of their homes. And healthcare providers can reduce their workload to reduce the risk of infection.
It allows for the quick and easy exchange of medical information and helps monitor patients remotely. It also leads to earlier diagnosis and treatments, improving patient outcomes and reducing overall healthcare expenses. Now, let’s look at the trends in telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic, discussed below.
Trends in Telehealth Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Telehealth applications have significantly increased in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, its adoption was limited, and its applications were primarily confined to a few specific sectors, such as mental health and remote monitoring.
As per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019, telehealth became increasingly important in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, with its usage jumping from 11.1% in 2019 to 53% in 2020.
Telehealth has become an important tool in healthcare delivery during the pandemic, and its applications are likely to grow in the post-COVID era. That said, let’s discuss the types of telehealth discussed in the next section.
Types of Telehealth
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
This telehealth type involves using technology to collect and transmit patient health status data to their healthcare provider, including vital signs and biometric data. RPM generally monitors various conditions and helps healthcare providers identify potential problems early and intervene before they become more serious.
- Real-Time Telemedicine
This telemedicine type involves using electronic communication technologies, such as video conferencing or phone calls, to provide healthcare services in real-time. It also allows patients to connect with healthcare providers for consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations without requiring in-person visits.
Real-time telemedicine can be used for many healthcare services, including primary care, specialist consultations, cognitive behavioral therapy and mental health services.
- Store-and-Forward Telemedicine
It is also known as asynchronous telemedicine. This telemedicine type involves transferring medical information, such as images or test results, from one location to another for review by a healthcare provider.
For instance, a patient in a rural area might take a photograph of a rash on their skin and send it to a dermatologist for evaluation. The dermatologist would review the image and send a diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
Store-and-forward telemedicine is used for a wide range of healthcare services, including specialist consultations and the review of diagnostic images.
Let’s discuss telehealth’s role in addressing healthcare disparities in the U.S., which is discussed below.
Role of Telehealth in Addressing Health Care Access Disparities in The U.S
Telehealth has become increasingly important in the United States for several reasons. First, the U.S. has a large and geographically dispersed population, making it difficult for some people to access healthcare services in person. Telehealth can help bridge this gap by allowing patients to connect with healthcare providers remotely.
Second, the U.S. healthcare system has been facing increasing pressures due to rising costs and an aging population.
Telehealth can help reduce the burden on traditional healthcare systems by allowing patients to receive medical care from the comfort of their homes. It reduces the need for hospital visits and other costly forms of medical care.
Third, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of telehealth in maintaining access to healthcare services while minimizing the risk of exposure to infectious diseases.
Telehealth has allowed patients to continue receiving care while limiting the spread of COVID-19 through in-person visits.
Overall, telehealth has the potential to improve access to healthcare, reduce costs, and improve patient outcomes in the U.S. and other countries.
Now, let’s discuss the growth of the telehealth market in the next section.
Growth of the Telehealth Market
The telehealth market has been growing rapidly in recent years and is expected to grow even further.
According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, the global telehealth market was valued at $26.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $70.19 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17%.
Factors driving the growth of the telehealth market include the increasing adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), the rising prevalence of chronic diseases, and the growing demand for convenient and cost-effective healthcare services.
In the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought telehealth to the forefront to provide essential healthcare services while reducing the virus’s transmission risk.
However, some challenges need to be addressed to ensure the effective and efficient use of telehealth in the post-COVID era, including issues related to reimbursement and payment, the need to ensure the privacy and security of patient data, and the potential digital divide.
Despite these challenges, telehealth has the potential to play a significant role in the delivery of healthcare in the United States, particularly in the post-COVID era, by improving access to care and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.