The telehealth market has seen unprecedented growth in the past several years, in large part owing to the challenges brought on by Covid-19. As people become more comfortable with using technology to improve their health, we predict the telehealth market will continue to grow. In this article, we’ll cover what telehealth is, pros and cons of telehealth, telehealth examples, & the telehealth market outlook.
Table of Contents
- What Is Telehealth?
- Benefits of Telehealth
- Pros and Cons of Telehealth
- Telehealth Examples
- Telehealth Market Size: Is It Growing?
- Telehealth Market Outlook
What Is Telehealth?
Before we move on, let’s answer the question, what is telehealth? Most people picture a virtual doctor’s appointment, but this is only one subset of telehealth, known as telemedicine. The telehealth market encompasses so much more than that. Telehealth covers all components and activities of healthcare that are conducted through telecommunications technology.
Benefits of Telehealth
There are numerous benefits of telehealth, the primary being that it can be an ally in taking charge of your health. Telehealth lets consumers have easy access to data about their health. Because of this, telehealth empowers people to lead healthier lives. It can also allow a healthcare provider to have more direct insight into patients’ critical health data, which can improve health outcomes.
Pros and Cons of Telehealth
There are a few notable pros of telehealth. First, the telehealth market addresses many of the challenges that can prevent consumers from taking charge of their health. Many people do not have local access to doctors – telemedicine lets them connect with specialists/doctors that could live hundreds (or thousands) of miles away. Telemedicine can also save a significant amount of time. For an in-person appointment, a patient may have to take time off from work – perhaps a whole day. Now, a remote visit lets them see a healthcare professional on their lunch break.
Second, telehealth can make sure that patients who do not see a doctor often still remain in good health. For example, many people with chronic illnesses do not regularly see their doctor. These patients can monitor their own health through a wearable or an RPM device (Remote Patient Monitoring). An RPM device would give them an extra level of care by alerting a physician about symptoms that could lead to a complication.
However, there are cons to telehealth. Telemedicine calls are good for minor care or check-ins, but for complicated situations that require a physical exam, telemedicine visits are not always ideal. Also, many consumers find videoconferencing impersonal. This could lead to a patient not following directions or not making a follow up appointment, which could be detrimental to their health.
Another con of telehealth is that technology can sometimes be a barrier for people. First, data security can be a roadblock. Many consumers are wary of having their personal health information stored on a mobile device or being transferred over the internet. In addition to this, technology can be unreliable at times. Wonky internet connections can lead to delays, frustration, and deferred care. Finally, some consumers can become frustrated with a device if it is difficult to use or not working how they think it should. This could lead them to remove the wearable or not enter information into the system. This lack of complete data can affect the accuracy of a diagnosis.
Telehealth examples can be powerful in understanding the broader market.
One of the most common telehealth examples is moving in-person patient education classes online. In the past, many hospitals and healthcare centers would offer in-person public classes ranging from information on how to lower blood pressure to new surgical implants. Over the past several years, these classes have moved online. Hospitals are able to provide the same information, but can reach more people because there are no limits on how many people can join remotely.
Doctors also benefit from telehealth offerings. Each year, physicians and other healthcare professionals are required to complete a certain number of CME credits. In the past, healthcare professionals have had to wait for conferences or centers nearby to offer classes. However, now there are numerous options for doctors to complete these classes remotely.
The National Institutes of Health defines mHealth as “the use of mobile and wireless devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) to improve health outcomes, health care services, and health research.” mHealth is beneficial because it lets users monitor their health independently. For example, a Fitbit can track exercise levels and how many steps a user takes in a day. Or, mHealth could be as simple as text messages to remind people of appointments to reduce the number of missed appointments.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) takes mHealth one step further. Patients use mobile devices to collect physiological information and then transfer the data to their physician using an app or computer. An example of this is AliveCor’s KardiaBand. It allows Apple Watch wearers to perform electrocardiograms in 30 seconds and transmit the results to their physicians. Another example would be RPM for Diabetes patients, who can transmit their blood glucose levels to their doctors in real-time.
One of the largest segments of the telehealth market is telemedicine –video conferencing with a healthcare professional. This replaces or supplements in- person visits. Telemedicine has been available for many years, but has skyrocketed recently. Telehealth wellness and telehealth therapy sessions can be crucial to ensure people take care of their physical and mental health, even in times when in-person visits are more difficult.
Telehealth Market Size: Is It Growing?
The telehealth market size is growing at a staggering pace! In 2019, the global telehealth market size was valued at USD $26B. It more than doubled in one year and will continue to expand for the foreseeable future. The telehealth market is expected to grow at a CAGR of ~30% and increase to $600B+ by 2028.
Source: Fortune Business Insights
Telehealth Market Outlook
The telehealth market outlook is extremely positive. Consumers will continue to become increasingly comfortable using telehealth.
However, from a payer perspective, there are significant hurdles to clear. Reimbursement rules are extremely inconsistent throughout the country and not all states require that telehealth appointments are covered by insurance. That said, this could change quickly. Both employers and insurers are realizing that telehealth can be a cost-efficient option.
From an employer’s standpoint, employees can be more efficient if they use a telemedicine appointment so they miss less work. Also, employees can be healthier if they use wearables or an RPM device to monitor their vital signs or chronic conditions. This can lead to less sick days and even lower employer insurance costs.
Despite the current challenges, there are numerous benefits to using telehealth to meet consumers’ needs for health care. Increased access, improved worker productivity from not having to take time off for appointments, decreased costs, convenience and quality of care, and patient and provider time savings are a few. For these reasons, providers, payers, and employers alike are realizing that telehealth may be the way of the future.
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