Will Telehealth Remain After COVID? Should It?

Aug. 28, 2020 — Telehealth has moved from the fringes of medical care to the center.

The fear of the coronavirus has driven patients to meet with their doctors, their child’s pediatrician, therapists, and counselors via computers, cellphones, and virtual reality.

A Department of Health and Human Services statistical report found that in April, about 43% of primary care visits through Medicare were via telehealth. Before the pandemic, more than 99% of Medicare-funded visits were in-person appointments.

From March through early July, the agency says, more than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries used telehealth services.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, too, saw a massive spike in the number of patients seeing doctors online.  Between February and May, about 120,000 appointments a week were conducted via the VA’s Video Connect system. That compares to 10,000 a week during the same period in 2019.

Though doctors may be turning back toward traditional office visits, at least for now, telehealth remains a way for doctors to maintain a relationship with patients.

“Telehealth has been a critical means for providing care during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be a vital tool, even as in-person visits are accessible for some,” says Susan R. Bailey, MD, president of the American Medical Association.

And it looks like it’s here to stay. Several telehealth companies are looking to go public or are exploring sales, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. The global market is projected to grow from $25.4 billion this year to $55.6 billion by 2025.

Amwell, a telehealth company, was expected to raise up to $4 billion from an initial public offering of stock, The Wall Street Journal reported. The paper says Amwell hosted 2.2 million telehealth visits in from April through June and had as many as 40,000 visits a day in April, a huge increase from about 2,900 a day in April 2019.

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