‘Virtual care’ has become a well known term that describes a variety of healthcare provider products and services that are mainly used for remote patient interactions. Over the past couple of years, virtual care has expanded to include new clinical solutions such as telemedicine, telehealth and remote monitoring.
Of course, before the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients only attended in-person medical visits, feeling this would mean they received a higher quality of care. Others expressed concerns around privacy and difficulty using the technology. However, following the pandemic, the way everyone interacts with medical facilities has changed forever. Wait times grew, and face-to-face appointments became less common.
With the advent of hybrid working and the widespread adoption of video conferencing, people are also now looking for support at home. This has led to the explosive growth of remote medical consultations. Vision Research Reports that the U.S. Virtual Care Market will surpass USD 46.5 BN in total value by 2030.
Improving Patient Outcomes
Virtual care services have also seen an improvement in the health outcomes for some patients with chronic diseases, resulting in shorter and fewer hospital stays. It has also transformed care delivery, helping service providers and patients reduce their expenses, introduced greater efficiency through reduced travel times and provided more flexibility for health professionals.
The use of virtual care measures has also led to a decrease in the volume of patients in hospitals, transforming the industry’s traditional operating model with healthcare companies now having multiple ways to administer healthcare.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2021, 37% of US adults used some form of telemedicine. With the decrease in available medical professionals, these opportunities mean virtual care is expected to continue to evolve rapidly in 2023.
The use of ‘on-demand’ services, such as physician networks by different insurance groups, will continue to grow in 2023. These services help patients get the support they need at home. Pharmacy retailers also continue to evolve in this space, with Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors also expanding their offerings to support the need for information to be accessible remotely.
The growth of virtual consultations and monitoring will grow, as will walk-up clinics that allow patients to speak with their healthcare provider without a scheduled appointment.
The growth of these on-demand services has also seen newer types of medical approaches for specialist users rise to the fore and enable remote purchase of different types of drugs. For example, the discreet nature of telehealth prescriptions has proven popular with medical marijuana patients who have an online medical cannabis card. Rather than scheduling an in-person consultation, they can request a prescription from the privacy and convenience of their own home, negating concerns on confidentiality.
Increased Use of ‘Audio Only’ Services
While the use of video in virtual care is likely to continue to see high levels of growth, it is not suitable for everyone.
Although many people enjoy high-speed internet access at home, this is not the case for everyone. According to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, some 21 million Americans live in what are described as “digital deserts”, with access to high-speed internet service and technology being very limited.
This has led, in part, to the rise of audio services, which are significantly driving the growth of the virtual care market. For many people, audio services and consultations delivered as phone calls offer easy access. In turn, these can also overcome barriers such as mobility issues, limited transportation options or nearby medical service providers.
Growth in the use of AI
All industries are being impacted through the greater use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the virtual care industry is not different. This has already seen healthcare software development include more use of AI.
AI is increasingly used in healthcare interactions, reducing clinical errors that sometimes arise as a result of communication failures between caregivers and their doctor.
Another area that AI is supporting is the growth of virtual ‘nursing assistants’, that help assist medical professionals implement their clients’ regimes such as taking their medicine. Another area of advancement is the use of AI to help process and analyse media records and documents.
Improved access to data
One of the main barriers to providing virtual health services for many companies is data. Having the right information available is key to allowing medical professionals to correctly diagnose and then support their patients to achieve better health.
The increased use of wearable devices from companies such as Jawbone, Garmin, Fitbit and Apple are also likely to continue to evolve and support patient awareness and adherence.
Other companies like Apple has developed CareKit and ResearchKit to help medical researchers develop medical applications that can communicate with clients.
Behavioural Health Video Content
Another interesting aspect of virtual care arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased use of video to support different behavioural health needs. The importance of access to care according to different needs has led to a new generation of medical-orientated content. Videos covering a variety of healthcare topics, such as mental health, have have helped patients access information rapidly, showcasing the vast potential of this type of content in remote healthcare.
The Virtual Care Industry will continue to change in 2023
Many other aspects of virtual care will continue to evolve in 2023. New technology areas such as remote patient monitoring (RPM), decentralized clinical trials (DCT) and telemedicine will also be hot topics. Another key focus area will be the integration of this new technology for independent providers, healthcare systems and those conducting clinical trials.
Other areas such as virtual reality (VR) technology, are seeing healthcare practitioners explore exciting new ways to assist patients and help health providers give improved treatments and outcomes.
It is clear that the virtual healthcare ecosystem will see many more exciting changes in 2023 and beyond.