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Increased Demand for Virtual Healthcare Going Forward

As the largest living segment of the population, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the workforce within the next six years. It’s no secret their appetite for convenience and technology has driven innovation in every sector, including healthcare. Even before 2020, telemedicine and virtual healthcare were considered the wave of the future.

The pandemic accelerated that push toward the future and the demand for telemedicine and virtual care will only continue to increase. Kristi Mitchell, practice director for Avalere’s Center for Healthcare Transformation, recently highlighted research indicating patients are more and more comfortable using telehealth and virtual care, viewing it as a way to strengthen relationships with their providers. She said, “Now that we’ve gotten a taste of it, there is tangible consumer demand pushing for it to stay.”

The boom in virtual care for mental health, the ability to manage chronic diseases, and equity and access for underserved populations are three reasons the trend for virtual care will continue to surge.

Mental Health Care Remains Important

The pandemic forced many services to go online, including psychiatry. Patients were forced to either get treatment virtually or by phone or delay care until in-person sessions were safe again. In an environment of accelerated unemployment, loss of life, and social unrest, waiting for mental health care wasn’t an option for some.

Many patients adopted virtual treatment readily, according to the digital health publication JMIR. A recent study of 244 Michigan psychiatric patients reported that 96 percent were fine with virtual or telephone sessions.

According to the survey, more than 90 percent of respondents chose to continue virtual treatment after nine months, saying virtual visits met or exceeded their expectations. It seems the patients appreciated online sessions’ convenience and the ability to schedule emergency sessions more easily.

Consistent Management of Chronic Disease

Chronic diseases like hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes drive the $1.1 trillion in healthcare costs for chronic disease management. Active monitoring and medication management are a large part of treating chronic conditions, and virtual care can deliver these services.

Data shows commercially insured patients turned to telemedicine for chronic care management at significantly higher rates than traditionally. The number of telemedicine claims related to diabetes, hypertension, and back pain increased 642 percent, 441 percent, and 258 percent, respectively. That’s a lot of claims impacting employers’ bottom lines.

If employers adopted a no-claims healthcare option that still provided unlimited virtual care and telehealth to manage chronic diseases, the savings could be exponential. Direct primary care (DPC) is one such option. This monthly healthcare membership not only allows patients to see a primary care physician in-office as often as needed, but it also provides unlimited access to telehealth and virtual visits.

Access for All

It’s interesting to note that telehealth was initially created to help hospitals reach patients who lived in remote or rural locations. Even in 2017, rural Americans were getting notably sicker as health systems struggled to deliver care in their areas. Only 10 percent of physicians serve rural populations, and the number of specialists is even fewer.

While rural patients lack providers, urban Americans have access problems because there is a shortage of in-person appointments. A survey of uninsured or individually insured respondents found 32 percent of urban and 21 percent of rural patients said they experienced delayed care when they thought they needed care sooner. Delayed healthcare leads to escalating conditions and escalating costs.

Both rural and urban Americans need a system that delivers quality healthcare that is not constrained to a particular geographic location, and they’re finding it in direct primary care.

Experts estimate 35 to 50 percent of in-person care will be delivered in a virtual primary care setting going forward. While the role of DPC and virtual care came to the forefront during the pandemic, many employers and employees are unaware of this benefit. If you’d like more information on how to bring the virtual care revolution to more clients, contact Healthcare2U.

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