Table of contents
The Future of Telehealth: Will It Disappear or Gain Steam After the Pandemic?
Telehealth, an innovative healthcare delivery service that connects patients to medical workers via videoconferences or other wireless communication, is not a new phenomenon. The earliest use of the technology dates back to the early 1960s when Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and Norfolk State Hospital were connected with a close-circuit television link, which marked the beginning of telepsychiatry.
COVID-19 has become a strong impetus for the development of telemedicine and determined its popularity nowadays. Indeed, since the beginning of the pandemic, the use of telehealth has increased many times 一 telehealth utilization has stabilized at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic, according to McKinsey. Various trends and valuable use cases have emerged in this industry.
Although the technology has taken a confident position, some believe that such popularity is determined only by temporary circumstances like covid restrictions, and in the post-pandemic world, the boom will subside. At the same time, many healthcare experts continue to argue that telehealth growth is just beginning and push for expanding telehealth coverage in the future.
Let’s figure out what awaits telehealth in the future and what stands behind its success.
Telehealth at Present
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer adoption of telehealth has skyrocketed. According to the SkyQuest Technology report, the world telemedicine market was valued at 70.12 billion US dollars in 2021, and it is expected to reach 233.49 billion US dollars by 2028. Today, telehealth is actively developing and becoming a powerful tool to improve the availability and quality of medical care.
Through monitoring systems, communication channels, measuring instruments, video conferencing systems, and portable mobile solutions, doctors and patients use telemedicine for various purposes:
Barriers to Telehealth Development
At the same time, telehealth usage has some obstacles.
People seek in-person visits
Despite the rise in telehealth appointments during the outbreak of COVID-19, utilization has since declined. People just got rid of “online” life and sought in-person appointments. In mid-2020, 52% of healthcare visits happened virtually, but this number had fallen to 11%. We cannot but mention that, although the percentage has significantly dropped, it remains considerably higher than before the pandemic.
Still, 43% of adults want to continue using telehealth solutions after the pandemic, and 34% prefer telehealth to a face-to-face visit, according to the American Psychiatric Association reports.
The distribution of telehealth is not equal
Telehealth, with its initial goal to provide medical assistance for those living in rural areas, is not available to many rural areas, especially in developing countries. Only about 60% of residents living in rural or tribal areas have such access, compared to over 95% of urban residents. Launching telehealth technologies hasn’t been easy for many rural facilities. Moreover, technology itself is a barrier to telehealth adoption. Rural populations are less likely to own smartphones and have a stable internet connection needed for receiving telehealth services.
Mistrust of technology
Many people remain skeptical about the assistance provided via technology. It is difficult for them to believe that machines can meet healthcare demands without visiting physicians face to face. As a rule, the older the generation, the more conservative it is in matters of medical care. According to statistics, 70% of Baby Boomers prefer to attend in-person appointments for primary care appointments. This is drastically different than younger generations. Thus, only 47% of Gen X, 45% of Millennials, and 34% of Gen Z prefer in-person visits for primary care.
Telehealth Trends for 2024
To avoid miscalculation when investing in telehealth, we suggest you delve into the trends that drive telehealth today and are expected to drive the technology in the future.
Focus on mental health
Telehealth continues to be a growing and effective way to provide mental health care remotely. Patients and psychologists report that offering care via telehealth tools (mainly video calls) has been crucial during the pandemic and often advantageous, even as many clinicians are again seeing patients in person. Since in-person and virtual sessions are almost no different (people come to therapy to share emotions), convenience, time-saving, and the absence of risks are enormous benefits.
The following is the share of telehealth of outpatient and office visit claims by specialty, according to McKinsey.
Better user experience
Users are looking for one solution that can satisfy all their needs. The seamless and integrated app is the next trend for 2024.
You can improve user experience by ensuring comprehensive service through integrated communications such as video, webchat, and bots while allowing for real-time updates, reminders, and follow-up appointments. You can also enable patients to access and navigate all their information at the touch of a button. A convenient application that covers all users’ needs will always be in great demand and help you overtake your competitors.
Chronic care monitoring
One-third of the world's population suffers from chronic diseases, and chronic diseases remain the most prevalent health conditions in the United States: nearly 45% of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease, and the number is growing.
In most cases, preventive monitoring and timely visits to a doctor help prevent exacerbations or even cure chronic diseases. Telehealth can increase patient involvement and adherence to the treatment process. Patients can use telemedicine to keep in touch with their practitioners. This will save time, help identify the problem early, and protect patients with weak immunity. According to predictions, solutions for people with chronic diseases will grow in demand.
Integrated data sharing
Since the new data-sharing systems are becoming faster and more user-friendly, telehealth solutions should follow suit. Many telehealth applications are starting to integrate with fitness apps to collect information about physical activity and heart rate straight from a user's mobile phone. This will provide medical workers with a clear image of a patient's lifestyle, which, when combined with electronic health data, will assist in producing a more accurate picture of their present health.
Wearable devices and remote patient monitoring
Wearable devices such as smart watches, wristbands, and other devices that provide real-time information about a patient's health are expected to become even more popular. Eighty-six percent of healthcare consumers said that wearable devices improved their health and quality of life.
With all the necessary data about a typical day in their patients' lives, practitioners can make more insightful diagnoses and recommendations. Considering the capacity of wearables and growing demand, we can say for sure there will be an increase in wearable technology and the sharing of data generated by these devices. At the same time, 1 in 5 patients finds wearables hard to use. There will be a focus on making the technology and platforms more user-friendly and affordable.
Pre-pandemic pediatric telemedicine was already gaining pace, but it is expected to acquire even more traction in the coming years. New generations of parents have more trustful relationships with technology than previous generations.
Moreover, there is an increase in the number of telehealth services geared at young people (for example, virtual physiotherapy that resembles video games). Therefore, telehealth usage for pediatric care is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.
Telehealth continues to evolve: some directions are becoming less popular, and others are gaining momentum and drawing investments. Because technology does not stand still, it is difficult to forecast what this industry will look like in a few years. One thing is certain: Telehealth is here to stay like any other technology that can make our lives easier.
Tech experts from Emerline can provide comprehensive telehealth app development services that include not just the software development process but also consultation, maintenance, and support. With our expertise, it will be easy for customers to reach the innovative IT healthcare sector and provide in-depth remote treatment services to different patient groups. Book a free consultation and address all your questions to the telehealth specialists.