In recent months, the use of telemedicine options has gone from being seen as a luxury to an indispensable necessity. With the nationwide (and global) spread of COVID-19, and the resulting social distancing measures and state-mandated lockdowns, many healthcare providers across the country found themselves scrambling to implement telemedicine so they could continue to deliver care while minimizing viral exposure. However, it is important to recognize that the need for telehealth will not end with the fall of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Surge
The COVID-19 pandemic quickly made it clear that healthcare providers would need to start treating patients remotely or virtually. In response to this, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded coverage for telehealth and increased reimbursements for virtual care visits. In a report by the Wall Street Journal, telehealth visit claims to CMS since the start of the pandemic tripled from 100,000 to 300,000 per week (as of March 28, 2020). While COVID-19 may have been the initial cause of this telehealth surge, many believe we have now turned a corner that will make telemedicine options an everyday part healthcare in the U.S.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma was quoted in a recent article, “I think it’s fair to say that the advent of telehealth has just been completely accelerated, that it’s taken this crisis to push us to a new frontier, but there’s absolutely no going back.”
An Expanding Market
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US telehealth market is predicted to reach roughly $10 billion by the end of 2020, with a year-over-year growth of 80%. According to an Arizton report, telehealth growth is expected to continue over the next half-decade, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of approximately 30% from 2019 to 2025.
This continued expansion of the telehealth market is supported by a recent Sykes survey of 2,000 adults from across the U.S., which found that 60 percent of those surveyed said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased their willingness to try telehealth and that 73 percent were willing to use telehealth for COVID-19 screening.
The Future of Telemedicine
Many predict that a near-future telemedicine boom is on the horizon. And governmental programs are encouraging this uptick. As already mentioned, the CMS has expanded telehealth measures and increased reimbursements for virtual care. Additionally, the FCC recently proposed a $200 million investment program that would fully fund telehealth devices and services for eligible healthcare providers.
For all healthcare providers, it is also important to acknowledge the fact that the COVID-19 emergency is far from over. A viable and safe vaccine for this virus is still 12 to 18 months away, at best. Unfortunately, this means there will not be a ready vaccine in time for the second wave of COVID-19 that is predicted to hit the U.S. sometime in the fall or winter of 2020. When that occurs, lockdowns and social distancing measures will most likely be reinstated and practices will again find themselves relying on telemedicine solutions. For practices that have already implemented these virtual care solutions, the negative impact of the second wave will be minimized in comparison to those who have not.
From the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Nextech has been leading the way by making every effort to ensure our clients stay informed with the latest news and are equipped with the tools they need to continue operating in the resulting lockdown. All Nextech clients have access to our new telehealth solution, free of charge for the duration of the current emergency, in addition to our Community Portal’s library of helpful resources. Contact our team today at (813) 425-9200 for information on Nextech’s suite of telemedicine solutions, such as the myPatientVisit patient portal, Telehealth app and more.