About 25% of patients used telehealth last year, far exceeding the 5% who accessed care this way before the pandemic. And as the budding field evolves, that share is expected to continue to rise in the coming years.
During an AMA Telehealth Immersion Program webinar, experts shared their views and perspectives on how a system propelled to the forefront of medicine evolved in 2022 and where it is headed in 2023.
Telehealth usage spiked to 70% in 2020, but that happened in a U.S. health care system that wasn’t built or optimized for such an influx of patients.
The usability wasn’t there and, culturally, patients and physicians who weren’t fully ready to move to virtual care were happy to go back to in-person visits, internist Eyal Zimlichman, MD, said during the webinar. He is the chief innovation and transformation officer at Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, and previously served as an adviser to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
So, the nation’s health care system will experience an evolution—not a revolution—of telehealth, he said.
“We are going to see a slow rise from the 20% to 25% we are currently [seeing], moving up maybe toward that 70% again, but in a more natural course where the usability is improving and where the culture is slowly getting there,” Dr. Zimlichman said. “It’s going to take another five years or so … to see that go up to the 50% to 70% rate that we’ve seen” during the early part of the pandemic.
Supporting telehealth is an essential component of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.
Telehealth is critical to the future of health care, which is why the AMA continues to lead the charge to aggressively expand telehealth policy, research and resources to ensure physician practice sustainability and fair payment.
5 predictions for 2023
Dr. Zimlichman was joined by panelists Lisa Lavin, founder and CEO of Ōmcare Inc., a digital health care company offering a customizable home health platform for organizations, and Tory Cenaj, founder and publisher of Telehealth and Medicine Today.
Here are their predictions for telehealth in 2023.
Telehealth will continue to evolve into something that’s easier to use. Expect to see more effort and money put into the usability of telehealth solutions. Patients and physicians have had a taste of how technology can revolutionize health care, but the technology needs to continue to improve to expand the number of people who use telehealth on a regular basis.
The field will see steps toward aggregated, all-in-one technology. Look for some “eyebrow-raising” joint ventures between technology and health care professionals that are going to help take steps toward more seamless technology.
Chronic disease management will see strides. Medicine has been focused on pharma when it comes to managing chronic illness. But it is much more complicated than just pills and that’s where digital health tools will come into play. Expect to see more wearable technology and sensors, along with chat boxes and symptom-management tools to manage an area that is one of the biggest buckets of cost and morbidity and mortality in health care.
Government funding and regulation for telehealth will continue to be a hot topic. Telehealth will only continue to grow if physicians and other health care providers are being paid properly for the services. Look for this, along with regulatory issues such as licensing and treating patients across state lines to get more attention in 2023.
More capital will flow to innovators in the digital health care arena. Investors have capital to deploy into health care and a number of health care companies are sitting on large capital reserves. Expect more capital to go to innovators in virtual care and digital health solutions.
Learn more about the AMA’s new “Blueprint for Optimizing Digitally Enabled Care” (PDF), which is designed to help bridge the digital health chasm as the pace of digital health progress in medicine does not yet match the technology’s potential.
The Telehealth Immersion Program is part of the AMA STEPS Forward™ Innovation Academy, which enables physicians to learn from peers and experts and discover ways to implement and optimize time-saving practice innovation strategies.