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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous changes throughout daily life—and in the medical world as well. Not only have providers across the country postponed selective procedures, but many providers also encourage people to avoid making appointments in the office to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

But what do you do if you still need health care? Fortunately, Telehealth can help.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth — or telemedicine — is a healthcare solution that allows you to meet with your doctor virtually instead of going to the office. It uses a virtual meeting system which enables you to video-call your doctor and talk face-to-face as if you were in the same room.

Telehealth can be used for many things, including, but not limited to: 

  • Meeting with your doctor virtually
  • Requesting prescriptions online to have it delivered to your nearest drug store
  • Accessing your medical history, doctors, and medicine history online
  • Chatting or sharing photos which describe your symptoms
  • Submit your medication list, allergies, ID cards, and medical history in advance
  • Chat or share photos describing your symptoms
  • Securely paying online for virtual visits

There are many benefits to connecting with your doctor in a virtual setting:

  • You won’t have to miss time from work for an appointment
  • Babysitters or other care assistants aren’t necessary
  • There’s no wasted time or travel expenses associated with visiting the doctor’s office
  • You’re able to receive quality health care faster
  • You’re not subjecting yourself or others to risk of a contagious illness, like the common cold, flu, or COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 on telehealth

COVID-19 is changing the field of telemedicine at an alarming rate. In the absence of vaccines or effective therapies in the beginning of the pandemic, social distancing and isolation have been the only widely available interventions, which have provided a compelling reason to adopt face-to-face care alternatives. 

Between March 2020 and April 2020, a large-scale migration to telemedicine occurred, while in-person visits dropped by more than 80%.

Consumer shift in telehealth for virtual versus physical visits to the doctor during COVID-19
Figure 1

There were several factors which allowed telehealth to flourish as quickly as it has: 

  • The consumers were made aware of telemedicine, and were more likely to use said services
  • The need for providers to offer their services virtually has increased due to the consumer demand
  • Regulatory changes and distancing allowed for more access to telehealth

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, telehealth provided a way for people to have access to their required physicians, and is not reshaping the virtual/face-to-face care models, with the goal of improving the accessibility, outcomes, and affordability of healthcare.

In the following chart, we can see the difference in first visits, follow-ups, and procedure in virtual versus physical visits. The data shows how the visits have changed from October 2019, to October 2020 in various medical fields.

Consumer shift in telehealth for virtual versus physical visits to the doctor during COVID-19
Figure 2

Since the first spike in April 2020, the overall adoption rate of telemedicine has approached 17% of all outpatient/office visit claims with evaluation and management (E&M) services. 

We can see that the usage rate of telemedicine varies by profession, with psychiatry (50%) and substance abuse treatment (30%) having the highest penetration rates (Figure 3).

Consumer shift in telehealth per medical specialty during COVID-19
Figure 3

How has COVID-19 changed the outlook for telehealth?

Consumer shift in telehealth during COVID-19

As you can see, telehealth has been rapidly expanding and it is likely only to grow from here. Consumers are embracing the new model of visiting their doctors virtually which enables them to save their time and expenses, and allows them to receive quality medical care faster.

Tilde Loop and Telehealth

We’ve been working with The Lowdown on an amazing project involving a contraceptive review platform and community. 

The Lowdown’s founder Alice Pelton saw that there are a number of problems when searching for the right contraception:

  • Doctor appointments are too short and you often don’t have all the time you need to discuss everything you want to 
  • There’s a lack of data and it’s difficult to understand what side effects or benefits to expect
  • Information on the internet can often lack authority and be confusing

So, she set out to create the first platform which allows its users to search and filter thousands of real-life reviews, speak to their in-house general practitioner or order pill prescriptions online.

Alice wants information to be easily accessible for everyone, and to provide real-world advice to those who need it. 

The Lowdown has already been featured in numerous news articles including The Sun, The Telegraph, METRO, The Times, and many others. 

Our very own Marija Ziterbart has recently also joined The Lowdown as their new CTO. Since joining The Lowdown as a consultant in April, Marija has done an incredible job in transforming the technologies used on the platform. 

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