COVID-19 has greatly changed how we care for ourselves and has resulted in a massive shift in how we connect with our doctors. But telehealth has tremendous potential beyond the pandemic as well. Virtual care expands healthcare access for everyone while also reducing disease exposure for patients and staff, preserving scarce medical supplies and reducing patient demand on facilities.
Researchers predict that up to $106 billion of current U.S. healthcare spend could be virtualized by 2023. This underscores the high rates of adoption among both patients and physicians, and the impetus felt among providers to offer safe, secure and easy to use virtual services as demand for telehealth continues to grow.
While COVID-19 has positively changed the outlook for telemedicine, adoption rates vary. Researchers found that rural counties had a lower proportion of telehealth visits during the pandemic, with 23.9% usage compared to 30.7% of visits in urban counties. Age is another key factor — the percentage of visits was smallest among adults age 65 years and older at 23.7% compared with 38.7% among adults age 30 to 39 years.
Telehealth has been essential to keeping people healthy and safe during the pandemic, and it has major potential to increase healthcare access for older adults in the future. However, it can also be stressful for those with an aversion to the idea of using technology to speak with their doctor.
As patients who might have shied away from technology in the past now need to use it to connect with their doctors, it’s important for healthcare providers to ensure their telemedicine platforms are inclusive for users of all ages and levels of digital literacy.
Fortunately, there are several steps healthcare providers can take to improve the telehealth experience for all users.