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The Age of the Telemedicine Boom: Is It Here To Stay 2021 & Beyond?

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Out of pandemic-fueled urgency and necessity, virtual doctor’s visits have quickly become commonplace. While telemedicine was around prior to the pandemic, the urgency to contain COVID-19 caused a demand and expansion for safe health care access and delivery. 

Enter telemedicine.

But, with optimism, this pandemic will eventually end -- so, does that mean telemedicine expansion will go with it? 

In April 2020, telemedicine visits peaked and were almost 80 times higher than in February 2020. Overall, since April 2020, telemedicine growth has stabilized and is 38 times higher than in 2019. 

From a 2021 polling, 2 in 3 healthcare leaders expect telehealth to change in one way or another. 31% expect it to increase and 34% expect it to steady. The other 35% expect it to decrease.

While it’s true the pandemic caused the telemedicine industry to blossom -- is it possible that the newfound convenience will keep it alive? Has it changed public perception enough to make it a mainstay?

It will all depend on a few factors -- but it’s looking like it could be here to stay. If you are interested in the growth of telemedicine, there are a few things to consider in 2021. 

It could depend on the specialty 

Consumer researchers at McKinsey & Company have seen a differential uptake depending on doctor specialty. 

In February 2021, almost a year after the pandemic began, psychiatry (50%) and substance abuse treatment (30%) are still seeing a pretty substantial telemed utilization. 

Specialties that require imaging, and physical examinations are not expanding for obvious reasons. But, endocrinology, rheumatology, gastroenterology, and neurological medicine are all still expanding virtually in 2021.

Public and physician perception of telemedicine has greatly improved 

Public and professional perceptions are extremely important in estimating the longevity or growth of any niche market.

Consumer adoption has certainly skyrocketed. 

Prior to the pandemic, only 11% of those who utilized telemed said they would continue to use it. But now, around 76% of consumers were highly satisfied and are likely to use telemedicine going forward. 

According to consumer surveys, the most satisfied consumers liable to return were those who used virtual psychologist or psychiatrists sessions, virtual health clinic visits, and virtual pediatrician visits. 

A lot of health care professionals are newly on board now too. 57% of physicians see telemedicine services “more favorably” versus before the pandemic. And 64% are more comfortable using it in the future. 

Investors still see telemedicine very favorably 

Follow the money. 

When it comes to expansion, capital investment in the virtual 

healthcare space is extremely promising. 

In the entirety of 2020, the total investment was $14.6 billion. 

In only the first half of 2021, capital investment already hit nearly $15 billion. If this rate continues, the annual investment could be around 25 to 30 billion. 

Versus only $7.7 billion in 2019.

New legislation proposed to Senate is fighting for expansion 

There is pending telehealth legislation that could permanently change the face of healthcare. 

The CONNECT for Health Act of 2021 and the Telehealth Modernization Act are both striving to rid telemedicine geographical restrictions which would open virtual home health care to all who receive Medicare in the United States.

This is a cause worth fighting for as telemedicine has improved patient outcomes and could positively affect 75 million Medicaid recipients.

Working out the kinks under pressure

If there is only one good thing to come out of this pandemic, it’s the rapid development and improvement of new telehealth technology. 

Through necessity, telehealth platforms have become easier to use, more efficient, and better meet the needs of physicians than previous telemedicine software. While technology will continue to expand, the pandemic offered an unplanned widespread rollout where the kinks were worked out under pressure.

This pandemic forced the industry out of its cocoon and as a result, we now have CMS technology optimized for telemedicine. 

Telemedicine is here to stay

Neurologist Dr. Jeffrey English says, “With patients becoming accustomed to the level of access telemedicine provides, I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to go back. The box is open.”

The rapid consumer adoption of telehealth has changed patient expectations of healthcare. With patients finding more convenience in virtual care, providers who don't offer this care are estimated to see decreased patient volume.

Providers that embrace this new aspect of healthcare are predicted to see an increase in revenue. 

While some hospitals and private practice physicians are not “on board” with telehealth, it’s likely not enough to stop this disruptive market expansion. 

But, as the saying goes, the train leaves the station with or without you. 

This digital health clinic was founded to make important health care available to all

Dr. Simal Patel drew on his experience as an emergency room physician when he founded the digital health clinic Strut Health

He saw the need for easy-to-access treatment for commonly stigmatized issues like “sexual dysfunction, abnormal skin conditions, hair loss for both men and women, and more”. For some, seeking treatment is delayed simply because of embarrassment. Strut Health works to offer the best treatment plans to help their patients walk tall again.

The need is endless 

Here at Strut Health, we treat commonly stigmatized health issues, but the need for quality telemedicine services is truly endless. 

Over the years, there’s been a rise in various specializations in the telehealth space that have the potential to positively change health outcomes for millions. Increasing care access to commonly ignored and stigmatized health problems, mental health care, drug abuse counsel, sex education, and preventative primary care -- could change everything. 

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