Need more evidence that telehealth’s COVID surge was no fluke? A new white paper explores usage data and consumer preferences, and predicts another leap forward this year. The paper, published by consumer research firm Park Associates and data tracker Softeq Development Corp., reports an explosion of connected medical product purchases is just around the corner.
That’s based upon the experiences consumers had with telehealth tech during 2020, as 41% of consumers with broadband engaged in a remote medical visit compared to 15% in 2019. The increase isn’t surprising; COVID forced many consumers to go online for medical help.
But overall, patients approved of the shift, and want more. When asked about their future purchase prospects, nearly 60% of those surveyed who were parenting kids under 18 said they were going to snag a connected medical product for home use. More than four in 10 of household interviewees who already had a telehealth product said they’d get more. And a quarter of U.S. broadband customers indicated they would purchase one or more products.
That bodes well for the long-suffering makers of these products. But what about the other end of the paradigm–care providers? Many were resistant to patient demand for virtual services last year, to the extent that many of their patients went without care for the year.
Of course, care provider adoption of anything new has been historically slow. Remember the tears shed in clinics across the nation when they were told to put their paper records online? But money has been an issue, too. Current health plan billing systems spit out “does not compute” when asked to bill for a virtual exam. Now, plan administrators are getting around to coding for those visits so doctors won’t lose their homes, and the pace of adoption is accelerating, the white paper says.
Meantime, the paper notes, another trend completely unrelated to COVID is boosting telehealth prospects. Many folks age 65 and older don’t want to go to assisted living. But the dangers of aging in place forced it upon those prone to falls, minor strokes, and problems with the home environment that they were unable to manage.
These seniors now want more in-home monitoring and security products to keep them in place, and the expanding discussion about telehealth services has reached their ears.
The upshot: Investors, this may be the moment to flock to telehealth products and services that meet the twin needs of clinic avoidance and aging in place. Providers, if you do not get on this bandwagon, your patients are likely to look elsewhere to get what they want. In fact, the wave of new products designed to link consumers and providers is rife with data abstraction tech that will make life easier for clinicians by eliminating some of the drudge work.
“Widespread adoption of virtual care has also increased demand for solutions that can integrate connected devices with physician workflows in order to analyze data and deliver actionable and meaningful results and improved outcomes,” the paper says. “Product development executives are faced with increasingly complex choices when building connected devices and services. Advances in connectivity speed, cloud computing, edge computing, and machine learning require proven technical competency from end-to-end solutions providers like Softeq.”
Adds Kristen Hanich, a senior analyst at Park Associates: “Virtual visits deliver convenience to consumers and offer greater operational efficiencies to healthcare professionals. They also open the opportunity to bring more tools to support both patients and physicians.”
It’s the telehealth win-win we’ve been waiting for. We just didn’t know a tiny virus would get us there.