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The Year of Telehealth: How Digital Health Will Shape Healthcare Beyond 2020

Senior talking to doctor during televisit on tablet

Telehealth has been taken on a wild ride in 2020, but its future has never looked brighter. It’s paved the way for digital health for years to come now that most healthcare providers are expanding all of their digital health options during the pandemic.

As we look to 2021 and beyond, here are some of the ways that digital health is making a powerful impact on the future of healthcare delivery.

Broadening Appeal of Digital Health Tools

How many patients used telehealth before the pandemic? There were some, but not too many.

In the PatientBond Consumer Diagnostic, a nationwide study that looks at the attitudes and behaviors of healthcare consumers, only 11.6% of consumers had used telehealth previously for their care. Now, nearly a third of patients are likely to use telehealth as part of their care plan.

And this change in preference doesn’t just apply to telehealth. Many patients are eager to use digital health tools including remote monitoring, secure messaging and home diagnostics to manage their health.

General Population

Technologies Used for Managing Health Before COVID-19 (before March 2020)

Technologies Likely to Use for Managing Health After COVID-19

Telemedicine/Virtual Consult 11.6%


Remote Monitoring 9.7% 13.6%
Secure messaging with healthcare provider through an app or online portal 16.8% 22.0%
Text messaging with healthcare provider on phone 11.0% 17.4%

Home Testing/Diagnostics for diseases or health conditions

5.4% 10.3%

Patients aren’t overlooking these options anymore like they used to. They see these digital tools as viable ways to improve their health outcomes and the way of the future. Providers are taking note and adapting by incorporating these tools into their care models.

To be clear, there are some patient types that are early adopters of digital health solutions while others are laggards. PatientBond’s psychographic segmentation model classifies health consumers according to their attitudes, behaviors and motivations regarding health & wellness. Two psychographic segments had been responsible for more than 70% of telehealth use before the pandemic and appear to be the leaders in anticipated utilization in the era of COVID-19. However, all segments indicate an expected increase in digital health use overall.

As these tools improve and become more mainstream, patients will gravitate toward them more. That’s why integrating these tools through a digital health platform is key to future growth in market share and revenue.

Reshape Patient Experience

A patient’s healthcare journey has been the same for many years. A patient feels sick, calls the doctor to schedule an appointment, goes in-person for their doctor’s appointment and then, based on the doctor’s recommendations, follows a care plan.

This has shifted slightly with the internet with self-diagnosing but could change vastly from what it was a couple of years ago with the rapid utilization of digital health tools. For instance, automatic appointment reminders through a digital health platform can encourage patients to schedule regular check-ups versus waiting until they get sick to go to the doctor. Or, you may not know you’re unwell and an alert from your home medical device lets your doctor know you need medical attention.

The approach to in-person care may change as well. The pandemic has highlighted that in-person appointments may not be the best idea for some patients or even necessary for others. Virtual consults like post-ops or routine care could easily become more common to increase patient flow and convenience.

The patient experience for everyone could vastly change based on their preferences and their healthcare needs. This isn’t to say that digital health will replace in-person care, but providing multiple avenues for care will make it much easier for your market share to grow.

Improve Health Outcomes

Not every appointment has to be at the doctor’s office anymore. Telehealth allows healthcare consumers to have appointments in the comfort of their own home or anywhere else that’s convenient to them. During the pandemic, this method has been especially relied upon by those with underlying health conditions. For other patients, they choose this method solely for convenience.

Either way, all of these patients improve their health outcomes by staying on top of their appointments. And when there is a vaccine, the addition of telehealth as an appointment option will continue to help improve health outcomes for all healthcare consumers.

This is only the beginning of how telehealth will shape the healthcare landscape for years to come. That’s why the early adaptation of digital health tools is so important for providers. It will not only determine the success of their centers but also of the health outcomes for healthcare consumers.

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