Telemedicine Is Here To Stay

David Rook

Before working in employee benefits, I spent nearly a decade working for America Online (AOL). For those of you not old enough to remember, AOL was the gateway to the internet for tens of millions of people in the mid 1990's and early 2000's, as the "world wide web" went mainstream.

In those days, AOL's senior leadership placed bets on all sorts of industries they thought they could disrupt, from online dating and car shopping to airline bookings and online auctions. When asked what the company was learning from placing strategic bets in all of these commerce verticals, AOL's Founder Steve Case said, "it appears that anything that's easier to do online than offline will eventually transition to the web."

That very same insight can now safely be said of telemedicine. While both patients and providers were slow to embrace it, the popularity of telemedicine exploded this past year, while funding for almost anything telehealth-related has been booming.

According to technology vendor AthenHealth, they saw telehealth volumes in their network increase from less than 1% of total volumes pre-pandemic to as high as 32% during the pandemic, before settling in at around 10-11%.

And while it may be tempting to brush off telemedicine as a stopgap measure that served its purpose during this unprecedented healthcare emergency, new research shows that virtual care will long outlast the pandemic itself. In fact, experts predict that the telehealth market is expected to reach $185.6 billion by 2026.

Why? Because simply put, it's easier to do online than it is to do offline.

In a recent study by Doctor.com, telemedicine was shown to save patients over 100 minutes of their time compared to in-person office visits. Add to this that video visits often trigger a lower co-pay than an in-person appointment, and you have a winning combination – a savings of both time and money.

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Topics: Telemedicine, Telehealth, Telecare, Virtual Care, Virtual Health, Virtual Medicine

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What's the Difference Between Telemedicine, Telehealth, and Telecare?

Jeff Griffin

Visit most any restaurant these days and you’ll quickly interact with one of the “winners” of this pandemic. I’m talking about QR codes. These “bar codes on steroids”, now used to launch menus and online ordering apps, made a roaring comeback in 2020 thanks to their usefulness in the socially-distanced era of COVID-19.

That same can be said for telemedicine. While telemedicine has been around for decades, it’s acceptance by both patient and provider was somewhat anemic, at best, until the pandemic hit. Before COVID-19, it wasn’t at all uncommon to see telemedicine utilization rates in the single digits. Now it’s not unusual to see utilization rates in the 60 to 70 percent range.

While it’s wonderful to see a more widespread acceptance of this highly convenient and efficient healthcare delivery method, there is immense confusion over the set of terms used somewhat haphazardly (and interchangeably) to describe these virtual health services.

In the past year, we’ve heard carriers, employers, patients, policy makers, payers, and providers use everything from “telemedicine”, “telehealth”, and “telecare”, to “virtual medicine”, “virtual health” and “virtual care” to describe health services delivered via telecommunication technologies.

This post attempts to shed some light on the difference between these terms. While the differences might not seem all that important, they can be when working across different organizations, especially where reimbursement, data exchange, and data protection is concerned.

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Topics: Telemedicine, Telehealth, Telecare

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