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The majority (79%) of primary care physicians think that less than 10% of their visits will be virtual visits post-pandemic — while some (20%) believe that virtual appointments will plateau to 30%, according to a report by Sage Growth Partners surveying 4,380 physicians from May 28 to June 3 cited by Becker’s Hospital Review.
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Our outlook for post-pandemic telehealth usage generally tracks with providers’ — we think adoption will dip once outbreaks subside, but still top pre-pandemic levels.
- Telehealth usage has been on the decline since an initial spike in visits in April when the coronavirus hit the US hard. For context, telehealth visits comprised 14% of all doctors’ visits in mid-April, but this number fell to 7% in mid-June, per Politico. This is still notably higher than the number of virtual visits we were seeing in the US pre-pandemic (sub-1%). And considering coronavirus cases are beginning to surge again in some states, we don’t think that virtual visit adoption levels will revert back to pre-pandemic rates anytime soon. Individuals who are wary of contracting the virus — like immunocompromised and higher-risk patients — will likely still want the option for remote care, for instance. And we think patients who have tried telehealth amid the pandemic will grow accustomed to its convenience and will still have an appetite for virtual care post-pandemic.
- We think telemental health services will see the biggest drops in utility post-pandemic. In a pre-pandemic survey, 62% of consumers said they would rather use virtual care for ongoing physical conditions — but only 25% said they would use telehealth for behavioral healthcare, suggesting patients will likely prefer in-office visits for mental health once behavioral health providers start opening up their office doors.
Recent drop-offs in telehealth usage could mean we’ll see less telehealth startups crop up, as telehealth giants are already beginning to dominate the virtual care space.Larger telehealth companies have leaned on increased consumer appetite for telehealth to grow rapidly: Amwell filed an IPO last month — and Doctor on Demand announced it will use its latest round of funding to expand its telemental health services. Given that telehealth utility is starting to slow, we think that telehealth giants will likely gobble up the attention of remaining telehealth users — making it difficult for newer entrants like Beam Health and Heal to cement their presence.
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