Before the onset of Covid-19, the use of telehealth services was limited. Its utilization has risen to minimize physical contact as a measure to curb the spread of the pandemic. Telehealth services are convenient and reduce the risk of acquiring infections.
Insurance and Telehealth
Some insurance companies would cover the services, yet utilization was still low. After WHO declared Covid-19 as a pandemic during the initial phase, insurance companies offered free coverage for pandemic patients’ follow-up. At the beginning of October 2020, the companies retracted the services.
Patterns of Telehealth Use
Before the pandemic, telehealth services utilization was low. Afterward, there was a spike. However, after a slight decrease in disease incidence, fewer people began using it only to pick up with the wave. The utilization is still lower than during the initial phase after the disease.
The high and low patterns seem to depend on the incidence of the disease and insurance coverage. While there is technology to support the spread and adoption of telehealth services, the current pattern leaves questions on the growth once there is a Covid-19 treatment.
Possible Avenues to Explore
The rise of telehealth services was always going to happen, but the pandemic accelerated it to unanticipated levels. ICT companies have taken advantage of the market’s opportunity to develop software, and apps are covering telehealth services.
With old and new companies competing for the same market, there are many fields these companies could explore.
- Health promotion and prevention – Telehealth service providers can encourage the uptake of particular practices in a given area due to their capacity to reach vast markets.
- Mental health programs – Sometimes, people shy away from using available programs due to stigmatization. Telehealth services present offer privacy through virtual counseling sessions. The companies can reach more clientele remotely, such as teenagers, farmers, the elderly, and other special groups.
- Rehabilitative services – Most of the readmission cases that arise from injuries and surgical patients are preventable through proper management. Telehealth services present a way for healthcare providers to manage the patients remotely by teaching them and their caregivers, thus benefiting all stakeholders. For instance, physiotherapists can tend to their patients’ needs through virtual sessions.
- Consultations, prescriptions, and other support services – Telehealth companies stand to benefit by offering platforms through which patients and other health stakeholders can interact to cater to the services by decreasing.
Changes That May Arise After the Pandemic
Before the pandemic, the health industry conditions did not support the telehealth business. Uptake of the services creates new market dynamics that require regulation and necessary infrastructure.
The uptake presents possible changes such as;
- When people start moving freely and can utilize either telehealth services or in-person services, users can choose to use the available options or complement the two options depending on their needs.
- The regulations regarding the use of technology in health will change to protect the systems they use as people utilize telehealth.
- New entrants into the market will increase the competition levels. However, not all companies that spring will last; hence, companies with a longer tenure in the market will profit from the industry.
- More needs and avenues for utilization will increase as the technological advancements move to support remote access.
- Insurers and other health financiers will have to adjust to the costs and payment methods, mainly due to the acceptance of cryptocurrencies in the health sectors.
Possible Challenges Telehealth May Face
Adopting telehealth has been more manageable during the pandemic due to the limited options arising from the precautionary measures. The adoption has not been smooth, but the services’ utilization and growth could become rougher upon lifting the restrictions.
Some of the issues that service providers and users are likely to face include;
- Inadequate resources to set up the essential infrastructure for the spread and utilization of the services.
- Restrictions in the operations’ reach due to the new regulations that arise to cater to the telehealth sector issues.
- Reluctance to use the services due to the preference for the in-person service delivery model.
- Technological illiteracy and aversion among some societal groups may limit utilization.
- In some regions, a lack of training on using telehealth may affect its reception and utilization.
Whether the pandemic persists longer or comes to an end, telehealth utilization will continue with the differences being in the levels. To encourage use, all health stakeholders in the various countries have to set up laws that will protect users and guide the development and growth of the services.
Additionally, people using the services can inform themselves of the benefits they would accrue from utilization. However, the ultimate decision lies with the patients as their health needs and available resources will guide their choices.