Adapting to the “new normal” is rapidly shifting expectations for online service delivery. For example, companies which enable digitization and remote potential – like cloud connectivity, digital marketing, online distribution, and health care – have more than doubled during the economic shutdown. It is this last industry, health care, which experts believe could now permanently expand to include virtual care options and, as a result, achieve better outcomes.
Virtual health visits shot up 50% in March and are on track to hit 1 billion by the end of 2020. This coincides with legacy health systems ramping up the use of out-patient care and online scheduling platforms like Zocdoc and Pager expanding their telehealth offerings.
Mat Rezaei, the CEO and Founder of UPGUYS, compared the sudden shift to telehealth like five years of progress happening overnight.
Speaking on the podcast Brains Byte Back, the founder of the Canadian digital health service for men revealed that attitudes around virtual consultations have already changed drastically.
“Even six months ago, telling our customers that the doctor would call them, or that they would have a virtual meeting with the doctor, it was such a foreign concept for most of them,” Mat said.
Now, telehealth appointments are redefining the relationship between doctors and patients. Becker’s Hospital Review reported in June that 67% of patients who participated in a video or phone visit said the visit was ‘good/better’ than traditional in-person appointments, while 96% of the participants reported they were ‘somewhat/very satisfied with medical care’ they received.
Moreover, RepuGen conducted a survey in April whose preliminary results showed higher patient satisfaction with telemedicine over in-office visits when it came to primary and urgent care for patients.
“I was not expecting at all that this method of communication between healthcare providers and patients would become so mainstream kind of like at the flick of a switch.”CEO and Founder of UPGUYS, Mat Rezaei
“This has revealed that our current healthcare system in the traditional way is lacking a lot of elements, and maybe sometimes we need a disaster like what has happened to bring up different tools to make them available.”
The rapid uptake of telehealth held particular promise to improve the sexual and mental health of men, Mat said. “Being a healthcare provider for over a decade now, I’ve seen that men are actually the part of the population who need more help with the healthcare system,” he said.
Telehealth puts men back in control, Mat said, empowering them to improve their health without the potential for embarrassment, something which is especially important for topics deemed taboo.
“I think with the availability of telehealth, telepharmacy, telemedicine, we’ve stumbled upon a very good solution for men in particular. Men want to remain anonymous and they want to talk to people that are not too close to them,” Mat said.
“I do see that our customer base, men in Canada at least, they are now more eager to take more care of themselves.”
Digital health services which better connect doctors with patients and vice versa will be crucial to assist those struggling with mental health in the aftermath of the pandemic, Mat said.
“I hope that we can use all of the experience that we now have dealing with stigmatized conditions and utilize that for stress, anxiety, depression, related to the post-covid [world]” Mat said.
For the moment, telehealth looks set to remain the treatment preference for non-urgent medical needs in the midst of the global pandemic and beyond.
Telemedicine regulations in Brazil, for example, have been temporarily eased due to the success of AI chatbots which facilitate COVID-19 education.
Valor Capitol Group managing partner Michael Nicklas, whose company is working with healthtech startups in the Latin American nation, is confident that the temporary easing of telemedicine regulations will become permanent.
“What’s out of the box will be hard to put back in again,” he said.