Despite the growing number of telemedicine/telehealth apps and services now available, and despite the fact that more than 30 states now require health insurance coverage for, and payments to, virtual medical care providers, adoption rates by physicians and patients is slow-going. Reasons cited include cost on the provider side and lack of awareness on the patient side. Last year, however, Apple, Aetna and CVS took steps to boost awareness – Apple even announced a partnership with telehealth app Amwell®, which happens to be included in the Intouch benefits package.
But it’s not just Amwell. News of telehealth services is abundant these days.
- 98point6 is a Seattle-based telemedicine startup that recently announced closing on a $50-million funding deal.
- Earlier this year, medical journal JAMA featured an editorial suggesting it may be time for a new medical specialty – the “medical virtualist.”
- Significantly, a survey from Accenture found that 21% of Americans had used virtual healthcare, and 78% are interested in trying it.
- CVS, in partnership with Teladoc, announced in October that it has launched a 24/7 telehealth service for minor illnesses, injuries, skin conditions and other wellness needs, called MinuteClinic Video Visits, which is currently available in nearly two dozen states but is expected to be available nationwide by the end of 2018.
- Teladoc Health is also collaborating with two academic institutions, including one with which it will launch the “industry’s first academic fellowship program in the field of telehealth.”
“Without a doubt, patients are learning when and how to go virtual first,” Teladoc said in a statement [quoted in Forbes]. “When you dive further into physician use, there has been significant growth in hospital and health system use of telehealth in just the past year. The number of facilities having their first telehealth roll-out continues to increase, and established programs are adding more and more use cases for how they can fully leverage telehealth.”
As for Amwell, it’s designed to connect you with physicians, therapists and other medical specialists, 24/7, via your phone, computer or tablet. The list of conditions you can get diagnosed is, frankly, astounding: from bug bites to diabetes or depression, from tennis elbow to runner’s knee … even Lyme disease, malaria and Zika! As of this writing, Amwell says more than 80 million people have insurance plans that cover their telehealth visits.
It’s early days for telehealth services overall, and it remains to be seen how virtual medicine will evolve. But for now, at least at Intouch, (some) healthcare services are just an app away.
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