More Americans are using telemedicine as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces people to stay home to curb its spread.
Before COVID-19, only 1 in 10 Americans said they had used telemedicine, according to JD Power. What’s more, 75% said they didn’t have access to telemedicine or were unaware of their telemedicine options, even though our data show that 9 in 10 mid- to large-sized employers offer the benefit.
But today telemedicine providers — including First Stop Health — are seeing a huge uptick in calls. In fact, usage is up 50% to 158%, according to Quartz. At First Stop Health, our visits are up significantly while our wait time remains relatively low, at around 5 minutes.
Telemedicine is particularly helpful during the pandemic in a number of ways. Telemedicine is keeping non-COVID-19 patients away from those with the virus — an essential part of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Getting the care they need without leaving their home, patients can avoid waiting rooms with other sick people. That means hospitals aren’t bearing the additional burden of treating non-emergency patients during a pandemic that is already stretching their resources.
And while COVID-19 cannot be treated using telemedicine, doctors can advise symptomatic patients of next steps, such as contacting a local hospital, if needed.
It is significant that government officials are taking notice and recognizing the importance of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has expanded its acceptable use of telemedicine and loosened regulations. Some states are also accepting doctors licensed in other states in order to expand telemedicine coverage in their own state. In addition, more primary care physicians are offering telemedicine calls as a part of their care options instead of requiring patients to come into the office.
As the fight against coronavirus continues, we anticipate increased reliance on telemedicine. Indeed, this could be a turning point for telemedicine in general.
Now, as more Americans have had the opportunity to try telemedicine, more have come to understand its benefits. Employers are also learning why telemedicine is an essential health benefit for their employees, taking care of them wherever they are. This is telemedicine’s moment to show how much of a difference it can make.