What is the Future of Telehealth?
Timon LeDain | May 27, 2021 | 5 Min Read
The VP of Customer Solutions at Macadamian, Timon LeDain, offers his insights on the business of telehealth— a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to grow. LeDain helps us understand how the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the adoption of telehealth. He also looks at why many in the healthcare industry are adopting this technology.
Macadamian: The global telehealth market is expected to grow from $83 billion in 2020 to $319 billion in 2025, according to The Business Research Company. What is telehealth?
LeDain: Telehealth is essentially the ability to deliver care through technology, and typically, it’s associated with the ability to have a clinical exchange between a patient and a clinician over a video meeting. But it can also be done by phone. It can also include remote health monitoring that’s supported through a virtual coach. It’s typically associated with the delivery of care at a distance as opposed to the traditional face-to-face care that we are so used to with our medical practitioners.
Macadamian: Why do you suspect telehealth will see such exponential growth?
LeDain: This pandemic made it clear that the only way—in many cases—for care to be delivered is through telehealth. And as a result, some of the long-standing barriers to telehealth adoption from the past were finally addressed by the groups that pay for care. What this essentially means is that healthcare practitioners like doctors can now be reimbursed for virtual patient checkups. In the past that could only happen if the exchange took place in person. It turns out that for many healthcare services, delivering these via telehealth is more effective, convenient, and affordable than the traditional approach of a face-to-face visit.
Macadamian: Telehealth has been around prior to the pandemic. But how has the pandemic sped up the need for telehealth?
LeDain: Prior to the pandemic—whether seeing your family physician or receiving medical care at a clinic or hospital—the primary method of care was face to face. Telehealth was largely relegated to applications where this was not possible, such as serving remote populations.
Ever since the restrictions of in-person interaction brought on by COVID-19, the opportunity to deliver effective care remotely has taken on a whole new level of urgency. This has propelled the adoption of telehealth solutions and driven the development of new telehealth implementations to be able to offer urgent care differently. In some cases, the technology was already in place and we just needed to remove the barriers to adoption that have been in place for decades.
Macadamian: How is telehealth making healthcare more accessible?
LeDain: I think a lot of people are quickly getting comfortable with the benefits of telehealth. Even in the context of grocery shopping, you might ask whether we’ll ever go to the grocery store now that we can order by phone or order online. I think telehealth is similar. People realize how convenient it is. All it takes is opening an app to make a request as you’re sitting in your pajamas on a Saturday morning to determine how to treat a certain ailment. It’s very convenient. And having your family doctors say, “we’re going to meet with you by phone at 2 p.m,” means that you won’t be waiting for half an hour or longer in a waiting room. You never have to leave your home for certain medical appointments.
Macadamian: What other problems is telehealth solving?
LeDain: We did a pilot back in the early 2000s looking at a specific problem; we were looking to solve the issue around the time nurses were spending in their cars driving between the homes of chronically-ill patients. These nurses would be taking the patients’ vital signs, and reporting on the patients’ progress. With telehealth, we were able to have those nurses deliver care from a workstation so that they could see more patients, yet deliver the same care. At first, we were so focused on what the patient was going to lose without that face-to-face contact time. We were actually surprised by what we heard. Patients enjoyed the fact they were still able to show the nurse their new cat or exchange recipes. Even using technology, patients had the ability to create those personal connections, which are so important. We’re noticing that the benefits of telehealth are going to ultimately drive broad adoption.
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