- COVID-19 exacerbated existing problems within the healthcare industry and expedited the use of telehealth solutions.
- Telehealth programs and at-home tests have gone beyond simple health check-ups — they are reshaping areas like company benefit plans and clinical research methods.
- Cost, convenience, and personalization drive further need for remote patient monitoring tools.
The health industry is rapidly evolving, partly out of necessity and partly due to recent technological advancements. New healthcare delivery methods, like telehealth services and at-home tests, have changed how people can provide and receive care while giving individuals more power over their health. As a result, at-home testing and telehealth technology have helped alter the course of the American health system.
Needs within the healthcare industry
Over the past few decades, access to healthcare has continued to be an increasing problem across America.
One unfortunate reality for many individuals is that healthcare is simply unaffordable. A recent report by the Harris Poll indicated that cost is one of the biggest barriers to healthcare overall.1 As a result, many people cut health spending where they can; for example, in a 2022 report from KFF, 43% of individuals claimed they postponed recommended healthcare services, including urgent care, due to costs.2 Avoiding treatments and crucial preventative practices like regular health check-ups and testing ends up putting more strain on the health system as it results in more severe health conditions down the line.
Another barrier to care is physical access, which is a struggle for individuals with certain constraints, like mobility restrictions or medical conditions that make it challenging to travel for appointments. Physical access barriers also include limited appointment availability, which is greatly affected by practitioner availability. In 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges anticipated that by 2033 we could face a significant physician shortage, ranging from around 54,100 to 139,000 short.3 People living in rural areas that do not have the resources required to seek care located far away are even more affected as, according to the National Rural Health Association, per 100,000 patients, there are only 39.8 physicians in rural areas versus 53.3 physicians in urban settings.4
While advances in health technology have been steadily working to mitigate these apparent issues, it was not until March 2020 that the full importance of remote care capabilities was truly appreciated.
COVID-19’s impact on health technology
Digital health tools were starting to make strides within healthcare when the COVID-19 pandemic began, both exacerbating the weaknesses in the healthcare system and expediting the technology adaptation process.
By June 2020, three months into the pandemic, approximately 41% of American adults were avoiding medical care, 12% of which were urgent cases.5 No longer able to receive treatment as usual, doctors and patients alike sought new ways to have positive patient outcomes, with most changes occurring thanks to remote monitoring technology.
Telemedicine was in use pre-pandemic, but according to McKinsey & Company, telehealth appointment usage rates spiked during the initial months of the pandemic and stabilized at a 15% increase, 38 times higher than pre-pandemic activity.6 With virtual visits as the new normal, people started to take more control of their health and seek personalized health products and services. As a result, various startups burst onto the scene, from virtual fitness and other wellness classes to health tracking tools, including wearable health trackers and at-home biomarker testing.
Benefits of telehealth and at-home testing
Moving beyond the pandemic, the patient care services that fundamentally changed the healthcare landscape have continued to grow and adapt. For example, in 2021, the global at-home testing market value was $16.66 billion with an estimated CAGR of 10.5% through to 2031,7 and the global telehealth service market in 2022 was valued at $83.5 billion with a CAGR of 24% to 2030.8
Overall, these new telemedicine and at-home testing services have improved access to healthcare through things like cost-effectiveness and convenience for patients and healthcare providers alike.
Virtual care and at-home testing can eliminate the cost of travel for patients and reduce the need for practitioners to pay for physical service locations. For example, a 2021 study on cancer patients estimated that telehealth services saved patients around $165 per appointment.9
In addition to cost reduction, telemedicine visits provide more appointment flexibility as they do not require travel and typically offer more time slots helping combat certain physical access barriers to healthcare.10 It may also help with practitioner shortages. According to the American Journal of Accountable Care, with the ability to serve patients at varying locations and ready access to organized patient health information, practitioners can help more patients and provide a more connected level of care delivery.11
At-home testing helps bridge the gap between practitioner visits and patient follow-up testing. Many healthcare appointments remain incomplete as patients fail to undergo the prescribed blood tests, often due to lack of transport and time or fears associated with lab testing. An accessible, easy and convenient test completed from the comfort of home eliminates some of these barriers.
Frequent at-home testing for critical biomarkers health biomarkers also enables more efficient treatment adjustments, resulting in better health outcomes. Providing patients with more access to self-monitoring tools can help detect potential health issues sooner, offer additional support post-hospitalizations and decrease unnecessary follow-up appointments.12
Industry adoption of remote healthcare technology
Overall, the virtual health and wellness market is surging — in 2021 alone, venture capital funding for American digital health startups reached $29.1 billion.13 Telehealth and at-home tests have continued to expand beyond primary care to include services for mental health, nutrition, fitness, health research and more.
In addition to helping people manage chronic conditions and monitor for preventative conditions, at-home testing has developed into a valuable tool for other wellness pursuits. More businesses are utilizing personal health data to increase their personalized products and service offerings, like custom vitamin subscriptions or one-on-one fitness coaching. And while health-tracking apps and wearables are a large producer of this data, biomarkers are taking it to the next level thanks to easy at-home testing options.
Digital health advancements have also created new opportunities for employers to support employee well-being. Many virtual care companies are now explicitly designed to integrate with employer health benefits and provide employees access to telemedicine, personalized health data and other wellness support. Beyond better employee wellness, employers are seeing the potential ROI that telehealth visits and at-home testing make possible.14 For example, investing in employee wellness services may reduce absenteeism15 — according to the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. employers lose $36.4 billion annually due to sick days related to high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity or obesity.16 Other employer benefits include increased employee productivity and less overall healthcare spending.17
Health and wellness companies and employers are not the only ones adapting to virtual medicine. As the industry grows, so is interest in decentralized clinical trials. Decentralized trials are clinical research trials conducted so patients require little to no access to physical trial sites.18 Organizations are finding new ways to adapt remote patient care technologies to benefit clinical trial patients and other research efforts. Benefits include expanding testing pools — around 70% of prospective participants live more than 2 hours away19 — and making patient participation easier.
With certain hurdles still to navigate, such as data quality, regulations and patient support, the full extent that organizations can utilize health technology is still to be discovered.
The future of telehealth and at-home testing
According to a 2023 report conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Academy of Physician Associates (AAPA), 73% of surveyors feel some part of their healthcare needs remain unmet.20 And of those dissatisfied with health services, 19% felt that treating acute conditions is overshadowing the importance of preventative and wellness-based care.
With growing market demand for preventive, cost-effective and personalized virtual healthcare, the already vital telehealth and at-home testing capabilities will undoubtedly continue to become more critical to the healthcare system moving forward.
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- The Harris Poll. The Patient Experience: Perspectives on Today’s Healthcare. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- KFF. Americans’ Challenges with Health Care Costs. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Association of American Medical Colleges. New AAMC Report Confirms Growing Physician Shortage. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- National Rural Health Association. About Rural Health Care. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Delay or Avoidance of Medical Care Because of COVID-19-Related Concerns — United States, June 2020. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- McKinsey & Company. Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality? Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Valuate Reports. At-Home Testing Market by Test Type, by Age Group, by Distribution Channel: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2021-2031. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- Grand View Research. Telehealth Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product Type, By Delivery Mode, By End-use, By Disease Area, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 - 2030. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- JAMA Network Open. Estimated Indirect Cost Savings of Using Telehealth Among Nonelderly Patients With Cancer. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Deloitte Insights. Breaking the cost curve. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- The American Journal of Accountable Care. Telemedicine and its Role in Revolutionizing Healthcare Delivery. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Sensors International. Telemedicine for healthcare: Capabilities, features, barriers, and applications. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Rock Health. 2021 year-end digital health funding: Seismic shifts beneath the surface. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- McKinsey & Company. Innovating employee health: Time to break the mold? Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Healthways. Study of 20,000 Workers Shows Different Factors Drive Absenteeism and Job Performance. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workplace Health Promotion. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The Value of a Well-Being Improvement Strategy: Longitudinal Success across Subjective and Objective Measures Observed in a Firm Adopting a Consumer-Driven Health Plan. Accessed May 17, 2023.
- JACC: Basic to Translational Science. Decentralized Clinical Trials. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- McKinsey & Company. No place like home? Stepping up to the decentralization of clinical trials. Accessed May 18, 2023.
- The Harris Poll. The Patient Experience: Perspectives on Today’s Healthcare. Accessed May 18, 2023.