3 Post-Pandemic Lessons About The Future Of Telehealth And Technology

Healthcare technology and telehealth existed prior to COVID-19, yet adoption and usage skyrocketed in 2020, increasing 63-fold for Medicare patients and becoming a regular facet of life for many Americans. Even today, its usage remains far above pre-pandemic levels.

But with a product as vital as health, there’s no room for error when it comes to delivery. Here are three lessons about how to scale rapidly that I gleaned from conversations with a variety of healthcare and telehealth leaders.

1. Quality must come first.

According to Jason Gorevic, CEO of Teladoc, the pandemic served as a “turbo charge” for the company and accelerated the business’s maturity curve by four or five years.

“I was terrified that we wouldn’t be able to meet the demand and have enough capacity to deliver on our mission and really be there for our members and our clients,” Gorevic said. “It was a time of tremendous innovation for the company. We had to remake a lot of our processes and infrastructure to be able to scale, not over the course of years as you would normally, but literally over the course of days.”

When Gorevic took the helm of Teladoc in 2009, his colleagues wondered if medicine practiced virtually was even possible (or legal). Yet evidence continues to mount in favor of telemedicine’s efficacy. In one study that compared outcomes for over 500,000 patients from March 2020 through November 2021, some who received solely in-person care and those who received telemedicine visits, the telemedicine patients had equal or signficantly better outcomes in 13 of 16 comparisons. Gorevic and other telemedicine leaders continue to place a premium on top-quality care.

2. A Strong Mission Attracts Right-Fit Employees

Health technology companies with a strong, coherent mission are poised to attract top talent among younger workers in part because technology extends healthcare to populations that have historically been underserved, such as rural communities and Medicare recipients. Indeed, in the 2023 State of the Graduate Report for Monster, 65% of graduates reported that they would take a lower salary if it meant working for a company with a strong mission.

“Our company has been mission-oriented since its inception,” said Bob Segert, chairman and CEO of health technology company athenahealth. “Our vision is to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality, and sustainable healthcare for all.”

At Teladoc, “We empower all people everywhere to live their healthiest lives,” says Gorevic, noting that he the clear mission simplifies decision-making and galvanizes team members toward the objective of expanding healthcare’s reach.

3. Collaboration is Required to Meet Key Market Gaps

The United States is facing a physician shortage. In October, American Medical Association President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., gave a national address in which he stated there’s an estimated 83 million Americans living without adequate access to a primary care physician. In the speech Ehrenfeld urged for legislation addressing Medicare repayment reform and reducing administrative burdens, among other reforms.

The physician shortage could be felt in every corner of the healthcare industry, Ehrenfeld said. Telemedicine providers can play an important role in delivering care in a strained system. Yet even though telemedicine enables healthcare coverage for underserved populations, there are significant differences in how costs are reimbursed through insurance providers. The differences can exist state to state, and even county to county. Navigating this complicated system takes time away from patient interaction for providers.

“Telehealth increases care access while reducing patient wait times and physician burden,” said Segert. “But for telehealth to enable access and better care, it needs to be integrated into the physician workflow through the electronic health record. That’s how we’ve approached it at athenahealth – as an important pathway in a comprehensive approach to patient care and practice management.”

Addressing these disparities will require a “collective and collaborative approach” among key players in the industry. The telemedicine industry is poised to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 23.2% from 2023 to 2028 and expected to reach a $285.7 billion by 2028.

There is high potential for telemedicine providers to play an even more transformative role in how people get healthcare–and high need for continued innovation in the strained healthcare sector. Forward-thinking leadership will be key to this transition.

Article originally published in Forbes.

Share this article on...