The State of Telehealth – Booming!

by Bret Larsen

exterior of the eVisit building

It’s referred to by many terms in our industry: virtual care, telehealth, telemedicine, virtual health and remote care. No matter what we may call it, one thing is for certain — it’s here to stay! 

At eVisit, we call it virtual care, namely to signify that our end-to-end SaaS (Software as a Service) technology platform virtualizes every step in the care process from scheduling and intake, the virtual visit itself, as well as discharge, payment and e-prescribe. It is our belief that, in the future, this modality of patient care delivery will be just that — care. 

Names are important, but they certainly morph. Remember the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) launched in the ‘60s? Now, all digital banking is just banking. 

The more generic term, however, is telehealth, and telehealth companies like eVisit have experienced unprecedented levels of demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and thus are now becoming a bigger part of the overall healthcare ecosystem. That’s great news for everybody involved — patients, providers, clinicians, payers, employers, hospitals and health systems. Virtual care is convenient and efficient to deliver patient care for many patient-provider engagements. It has the power to enhance patient outcomes, reduce costs, and retain and boost revenue. 

Many agree that a silver lining in the pandemic is its fueling of telehealth’s advancement. Now, there are many industry analyst firms, research organizations and investment companies working to get their arms around this burgeoning market — sizing it; identifying the key players; and assessing usage, trends, growth and the future. 

Gartner, the world’s leading analyst firm, in its Gartner 2020 Market Guide for Virtual Care Solutions, also refers to telehealth as virtual care and defines these solutions as those that “enable delivery of care where the clinician is not in the same physical location as the patient, either synchronously [that is, in real-time] or asynchronously.” 

In the Forrester Wave™: Virtual Care Platforms for Digital Health, Q1 2021, in which eVisit is the proud SOLO LEADER, Forrester estimates that the virtual care market will reach $43 billion in 2021, with up to 480 million virtual ambulatory encounters and more than 50% of practicing physicians planning to make virtual care a permanent part of their care models for patients. 

Historically, adoption of virtual health solutions was relatively low, with only 10% of healthcare consumers using telehealth over a 12-month period, according to a 2019 study by J.D. Power. When the pandemic hit, a new sense of urgency around virtual care emerged, pushing the telehealth industry to take a massive leap forward. This was supported by regulatory changes from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, other government bodies and commercial payers that temporarily removed historic impediments to adoption.

When it comes to the state of telehealth, one thing is certain: It has been ignited. It will be exciting to watch how it unfolds. 

Bret Larsen is co-founder and CEO of Mesa-based eVisit. 

Did You Know? Hospital-based telemedicine started it all. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website, one of the earliest and most famous uses of telemedicine was in the early 1960s when a closed-circuit television link was established between the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute and Norfolk State Hospital, supporting psychiatric consultations.

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