It’s been a tumultuous year for healthcare, from a global rollout of vaccines and the threat of virus variants to the rise of telemedicine and virtual care services.
MobiHealthNews asked executives and other digital health executives what they learned in 2021 and how the fast-growing sector will change in 2022. This week we focus on whether the rapid growth of telemedicine and virtual care services during the COVID-19 pandemic has maintained its momentum in 2021. In the weeks ahead, we’ll hear their responses on topics like the year’s huge funding numbers and next steps for the industry.
Snezana Mahon, PharmD, COO of Transparent
“I think the novelty of virtual care will wear off for many consumers, but the concept of care on your own terms will accelerate even further in the years to come. The pandemic has proven we can do it, but to really hold out, telemedicine needs to be part of a broader omnichannel strategy to meet people where they are and provide them with an enjoyable experience. It’s the kind of experience people are used to in every other aspect of their life, but healthcare just hasn’t caught up. “
Carolyn Witte, Co-Founder and CEO of Tia
“Although COVID-19 has accelerated virtual care, the future of primary care will be integrated virtually, not just virtual. Virtual care is an incredibly important tool in improving access, but for it to continue to grow we need to move beyond binary virtual and personal care and try to connect the care continuum in more places like home health. “
Michelle Davey, Co-Founder and CEO of wheel
“I’ve seen a lot of headlines about fluctuating telemedicine rates over the past few months. Skeptics have been quick to point out that the demand for virtual care stems from short-term fear of the virus rather than long-term behavior and preference changes. I firmly believe that telemedicine is not a fad. And we cannot measure progress and innovation in the headlines. We took a technology that was undervalued and inadequately resourced and held it against the weight of a public health emergency. It takes time to build the next generation of virtual care. And it takes time to introduce a new way of working in an entire industry. “
Kyle Armbrester, CEO of Mean health
“I see the acceleration of virtual care as part of a larger movement across healthcare towards more services in and around the home. As a health community and as a health care consumer, we have moved away from the belief that care can only be provided within the clinic’s walls.
“The pandemic has certainly resulted in greater acceptance of telemedicine, and that lasted until 2021. But we’ve also seen a boom in the development and use of remote monitoring tools and an increase in the demand for home health services.
“And while virtual care certainly met an important need during the pandemic, there really is no substitute for personal care. Virtual nursing has certainly proven it has a place on the nursing continuum, but a clinician can only do so much through a screen.
“By providing more services at home, doctors can better understand their patients based on the drugs they are taking – or not take –on the safety hazards at home that threaten their general health; on the social determinants that prevent them from achieving good health at home.
“This movement has opened the eyes of health systems: they are now realizing that they can discharge patients straight to their home, where they can relax in comfort, and use these tools and services to keep them healthy.”
Kyna Fong, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO ofElation health
“Yes. In fact, virtual care has not only become the standard of care in many medical offices, but has emerged as a new segment of the market. It has been one of the greatest disruptors in health care in history, driven in large part by a debilitated and anemic System of primary care.
“Virtual care models, often backed by venture capital, have evolved like a spring garden to meet various health needs in a variety of areas that, very often, could be met by having your own family doctor in the community – if you had a family doctor.
“Virtual primary care, virtual physical therapy, virtual mental health services, virtual smoking cessation, virtual contraception, virtual disease management – the rise of HIPAA-compliant virtual platforms in response to COVID-19 has provided fertile ground for a growing number of virtual niche business models and seek to fill the void that an unfortunate lack of primary care has left in the US health care landscape. “