How COVID-19 Has Affected Telehealth in the US

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Sarah Peddie

The United States of America is one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic with the highest number of cases and highest death toll worldwide. Along with the high figures, the healthcare system has been greatly affected by the virus and many hospitals and clinics are struggling to stay in business as funds are low. 

Currently, the USA now has over 2 million cases of coronavirus and over 113,000 deaths (as of 10 June) but is the hardest hit in the east coast of the country.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the American healthcare system in many different ways. A lot of workers have lost their jobs and hospitals have had to close down due to cancellation of elective procedures that they rely on to make money. However, the pandemic has had a big impact on healthcare technology and telehealth. 

The healthcare industry has been negatively impacted by the pandemic but telehealth and digital healthcare has come to the foreground of the industry. Before the coronavirus outbreak, many Americans were slow to get a grasp of the digital service - however, telehealth interactions are on track to hit 1 billion by the end of 2020 according to an analyst at Forrester Research.

Why has the use in telehealth increased?

Policymakers and insurers have turned to telehealth to meet the needs of their patients without the risk of going to an emergency room or doctor’s surgery. By using the digital facilities that are on hand patients decrease their risk of catching the coronavirus and can adhere to social distancing rules very easily. It also means that emergency departments and urgent care centres are not being overburdened. 

The Federal Government has also taken actions to make telehealth much more accessible for Americans and have made it easy to access it through Medicare. 

How is telehealth being used?

Medical providers are using virtual visits via the phone or video call to deal with non-urgent care or routine check ups of medical or psychiatric conditions. App-based questionnaires are being used for Covid-19 screening to determine whether the patient needs in-person care. 

Many hospitals around the country have instructed patients to call and contact their doctor if they have suspected Covid-19 symptoms. However, people who are experiencing severe symptoms e.g breathing difficulties - a home evaluation may not be sufficient and in-person care might be needed and more beneficial to the patient. 

With the increase in the use of telehealth facilities, Global Market Insights reckon that the industry will grow from $45 billion (2019) to $175 billion by 2026. 

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