Virtual Care Goes Mainstream
The past year has been a trial by fire for telehealth. Here’s what is likely to emerge and endure.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020, so too did the number of U.S. telehealth visits, which soared to more than 150 percent of what they had been the year before.
“We are seeing health care paradigms shift all around us,” says Jonathan Mayhew, Executive Vice President of Transformation at CVS Health. “Understanding the shift in consumer experience and charting how it can lead to better care will be the big challenge of the decade ahead.”
What has the industry learned, and which innovations are likely to stick around? While most of the attention has been on televisits, the pandemic also led to other changes, including the wider adoption of apps and wearables.
“Among the many lessons we have learned from this pandemic, we now know care can be done in multiple ways, including online,” says Adam Pellegrini, who helped transform Fitbit into a health care company and now develops virtual care programs at CVS Health. “We need to offer care in the ways that people are looking to receive it — through phones, through connected devices, through asynchronous conversations and, of course, through the telehealth visit.”
This year, apps focusing on wellness saw a sharp uptick, with downloads of mental health apps jumping about 30 percent in the first few months of the pandemic
If these are all aspects of a new virtual care ecosystem, says Pellegrini, the next challenge will be integration. While more than 500 hospitals now have some way to handle data from wearable devices,
When that patient-generated data — along with other inputs such as home devices and other telehealth touchpoints — can more easily make its way into EHRs, providers will get a much clearer picture. That one-stop approach would help patients, who could log into a single platform to track their health, and algorithms might even flag likely problems, notifying a physician to follow up.
Other services may also soon be going more remote. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a danger to many traditional dialysis patients, who faced higher risks of complications from infection,
The digital future cuts two ways, however, for those who lack the devices or digital literacy. One 2017 study found that as many as a quarter of adults
Telehealth has arrived and there’s no going back. Patients not only have embraced new technologies during the pandemic but have also been happy