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Is Telehealth a Lock for the Future of Healthcare?

Is Telehealth a Lock for the Future of Healthcare?

Telehealth is a measure that gained large-scale appeal amidst the COVID pandemic. Used initially as a tool for curbing the infection rates, it has grown into something much larger than first expected. While not technically new, telehealth has grown so rapidly amidst modern technology that the process has evolved into a new form of healthcare not previously seen.

Telehealth is defined as the utilization of technological information that would support those in need of long-distance care, health-related education, and both public health and health administration. Telehealth specifically differs from telemedicine in that the scope is much larger, covering a more vast subject area. Read on to learn about the future of this industry, and whether it will withstand the test of time.


What Are the Benefits of Telehealth?

Telehealth offers employees the opportunity to receive care from the security of their own homes. It provides patients with ease of access and increased flexibility in contrast to in-person office visits. 

Many patients who once had to make the journey to their doctor’s facility, now have the convenience of attending their appointments from their own living rooms. For patients with disabilities or serious illnesses, this method provides both comfort and support.  

It is, however, not only those who have difficulty in traveling to the hospital that finds this method attractive. Many people appreciate the added flexibilities that come with telehealth services. The convenience of attending your appointment from your own home suits many different people and patients.

Telehealth also has the potential to reduce overall medical spending by decreasing certain issues. These issues may include misuse of medications, unnecessary visits to your physician or ER, and potentially even lengthy hospital visits. By cutting down on these instances the potential to decrease spending increases dramatically.


What are the Challenges of Telehealth in 2022?

The largest challenge facing the telehealth industry is legislation. This differs by state, but general restrictions involving reimbursements and licensing were eased during the pandemic to make greater use of these services. 

One major example is how audio restrictions specifically were lifted. These services provide much support to the poor and the elderly. People with limited access to phones and computers benefit from this as well. Should the restrictions be put back into place, then it is likely that insurers will begin ceasing reimbursements for any audio or non-video service calls. 

Now, many states are putting an end to these emergency regulations, which provided access to telehealth services for so many people. This has begun restricting access to these services for many families and employees who desperately rely on them. 

As telehealth expanded at a rapid pace during the pandemic, the future of this industry looked bright. It is evident that there is a clear need and desire for these services, and therein lies the concern. 

A recent survey by Applause indicates that a large portion of people are taking advantage of the telehealth industry and plan to in the future as well. Of the more than 5,000 responses garnered, 46% took advantage of telehealth services during the pandemic. Over half of those participants plan on utilizing the method more frequently moving forward. 46% of the 54% of respondents who did not utilize telehealth services, claimed they did not have access to such services, while only 39% of those same respondents had a preference for seeing their physician in person. 

We can clearly glean from the numbers that telehealth services are heavily desired and continuously growing. Updated legislation will be the largest hurdle for the industry to clear in its efforts to fully take flight. When considering this, we can look to larger organizations like Amazon that do not seem phased by the legislative obstacles, as they rapidly expand by bringing on Hilton as their newest customer. In doing so, they effectively sign on 140,000+ employees that will gain access to virtual care through Amazon. 


How Will Amazon Care Impact the Telehealth Industry?

Amazon's trend into the telehealth market indicates the growth of the industry as a whole. More and more companies are beginning to offer these services. Consequently, competition is rising. Amazon may be at the forefront, but in referring to this trend as the “telehealth gold rush” they are clearly acknowledging the future importance of this industry.

An organization such as Amazon maintains the resources necessary to make a big splash into a number of industries, so to say they have moved into this market does not necessarily insinuate an instantaneous surge in the industry. That said, the fact that Amazon has placed so much capital into telehealth is a very good sign for the future of this health practice. 

It is too soon to predict the exact impact that Amazon Care could have as a whole on the industry, but it seems they are leading the charge by forging a path forward regardless of legislation. Many other organizations will certainly look to ride this wave forward and press for new legislation that allows for a stronger presence in the telemedicine marketplace. 

Walmart looks to echo this sentiment as they file to do business in over a dozen states. While Walmart has expressed its interest in the telehealth industry, applying for the rights to do business in more than 12 states cements its full desire to enter the market upon approval. The same scenario that occurred with Amazon. 


What is the Future of Telehealth in 2022?

While telehealth as an industry is not new, technological advancements have granted the industry greater versatility. This, combined with the pandemic, offered us a glimpse of where the healthcare industry may be heading in the future. 

The amount of investment being moved into the industry supports the claims of rapid industry growth with an estimated $14.6 billion in 2020 and $14.7 billion in only the first half of 2021. This is a significant increase from the mere $7.7 billion invested in 2019. 

As of now, legislation is in the beginning stages of being introduced. In February 2021, several senators came forward with modernized legislation known as the Telehealth Modernization Act. This would give increased access to beneficiaries in the telehealth market. This change in legislation would promote permanent changes boosting public access to such forms of medical care. Should the legislative process continue to move forward with the act, the stage seems set for inevitable growth.

With legislation still in the early stages of change, the road to a more expansive telehealth industry is waiting in the wings. While only time will tell, telehealth appears to be showing dramatic signs of growth even beyond the pandemic, all but proving that it can withstand the test of time.


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