Demand for telehealth systems has boomed in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, setting the stage for telemedicine to finally achieve at least some of its long-promised benefits. And analysts expect widespread use to continue even after the current crisis abates.

The coronavirus outbreak that has infected almost 3 million people worldwide and killed nearly 200,000 (including more than 50,00 in the U.S. alone) will “forever change the way consumers seek and receive healthcare,” said Arielle Trzcinski, a senior analyst at Forrester. 

“While the pandemic will prove the value of virtual care in a crisis, it will also demonstrate the effectiveness for ongoing chronic care management,” she said. “This moment will have a lasting effect on the adoption of virtual care and accelerate the shift from in-person care to virtual first engagement for multiple conditions and use cases.”

Telehealth broadly involves the remote provision of healthcare between doctors and patients, most often by way of video consultations, though it can also be used for teleradiology and remote patient monitoring.

Use of telehealth applications has been rising steadily for years, though adoption has varied across different organizations. As of January, only 24% of U.S. healthcare organizations had a virtual care program in place, according to Forrester. 

That’s changed rapidly in recent months as COVID-19 spread, forcing people to avoid doctors’ offices, hospitals, medical clinics – and, of course, the workplace. Into the resulting gap, telehealth companies have moved to enable doctors to connect with their patients remotely.

Telehealth firms see ‘explosive’ spikes in demand

The crisis has led to telehealth vendors seeing huge spikes in demand, said Daniel Ruppar, a consulting director at Frost & Sullivan; some have gotten a year’s worth of traffic on their platforms in the space of a month.

“That is explosive growth,” Ruppar said. “Similar to how other consumer platforms like Zoom have exploded, that’s the same impact that’s gone on in telehealth.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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