The hazy post-pandemic future of telehealth

Despite the rapid adoption of virtual healthcare, the telemedicine industry still faces challenges such as B. increased business and initial public offerings raising concerns about a digital health bubble and a downright confusing regulatory future.

However, experts at HLTH’s third annual conference this week argued that widespread technology integration during COVID-19 is irreversible after the end of the pandemic, although the final makeup and scope of the industry are still being worked out.

“The effective application of technology and data in healthcare is the basis for effective healthcare, but has not yet reached its potential,” said Charles Kennedy, managing partner of Blue Ox Healthcare Partners, in a keynote address on Thursday.

While digital health funding wasn’t just for telemedicine this year, Rock Health said it broke records at a historic $ 9.4 billion in the third quarter.

And the favorable winds have also led to an increase in mergers and acquisitions. Virtual health giant Teladoc bought Livongo, a chronic care management company, for $ 18.5 billion as part of the digital health industry’s first mega-deal in August. The two companies announced their first combined sale under the major Guidewell Health plan at HLTH on Monday.

Many experts say that the inflow of funds and interest is long overdue. However, some cautious Wall Street insiders argue that health technology and virtual assistance are overrated because they fear that big releases are unsustainable and that investors are putting too much money into the industry.

It remains a popular hypothesis that technology in healthcare is a good idea, but ultimately healthcare is a service sector, Aneesha Mehta, director of Bain Capital Ventures, told HLTH on Thursday. For example, few telemedicine professionals argue that video visits will completely replace in-person medical treatment.

“There will be this void, and there will be some void where telemedicine cannot replace face-to-face interaction,” said Angela Williams, executive director of the nonprofit Easterseals for the disabled, on Thursday.”This is really significant when it comes to caring for the elderly, people with Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. Nothing else will happen.”

Additionally, some experts note that usage has decreased somewhat as COVID-19 cases in the US have decreased. According to the giant EHR Epic, visits to telemedicine by half-July made up 21% of total encounters, compared to the initial 69%. The pandemic peaked in April.

However, some predict that usage will increase when the coronavirus recurs in the fall and winter months. More than 30 states reported more cases of COVID-19 last week than the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

And many experts agree that even after the pandemic has ended, increasing consumer acceptance and demand for digital health care means that investing in virtual health care is not a bad choice.

“I don’t think we are in a bubble,” Mehta said, citing seven years of IPO-based healthcare technology (including from a large Amwell telemedicine machine) as evidence that the company is still in its infancy the technology. “We’ll see a