Personally and professionally, ringing in the new year always presents an opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Here at Teladoc Health, we’re always thinking about how to accelerate the adoption of virtual care so that more people can gain access to the high-quality healthcare they need and deserve. As we think about “what’s next” for healthcare, we’ve summarized our top predictions for the year ahead:
The new “healthcare front door” won’t be a physical door at all. Access to healthcare is no longer just about getting an appointment with a provider. It’s about taking an intuitive first step into high-quality healthcare services—from non-acute to chronic—for people around the globe. In 2019, virtual care will take hold as the healthcare front door, with a guided experience that directs people to the care service they need. A better experience, with better outcomes.
As health needs evolve, more non-acute care will go virtual. Consumer healthcare needs are evolving and the healthcare system needs tools to keep up with the cost and access imperatives associated with many non-acute and chronic conditions. As the traditional system is overloaded with an increasing volume of non-acute care needs, virtual care will step up to fill the gap with the expertise needed to treat these conditions, as well as an established model of care collaboration with the brick-and-mortar system.
Modernizing healthcare benefits will yield unexpected satisfaction results. Satisfaction has long been healthcare’s holy grail, whether viewed through the lens of increasing patient engagement, mitigating physician burnout, or maximizing workplace productivity. As today’s healthcare leaders reorient around new virtual care experiences and digitally enabled access points, expect an uptick in satisfaction among many healthcare constituents.
Household healthcare decision-makers seek convenience without sacrificing quality. Consumer trends highlight an unprecedented expectation of efficiency driven by advances in technology, disruption in other industries such as retail, and societal shifts toward multigenerational households. As these expectations increase, leading healthcare organizations will rise to the challenge of delivering a healthcare experience that’s efficient, convenient, and high quality.
Virtual care delivery will integrate behavioral health into the primary care setting. Behavioral health has taken the global conversation by storm as positive strides have been made related to stigma, treatment, and proper diagnosis. In 2019, the healthcare industry takes another step as it begins to look at behavioral and physical health as deeply connected aspects of a person’s health, not just correlated attributes.
Virtual care moves beyond the tipping point as regulatory conditions, economic imperatives, and consumer expectations align in its favor. We are past the point of inevitability with virtual care, and with each passing day a new barrier falls by the wayside. As economic, regulatory, and consumer trends shift to become tailwinds, the industry standard will change from virtual care as a nice-to-have, to virtual care as a central pillar of the care delivery strategy.
AI will play a valuable role in healthcare as augmented intelligence. In healthcare, AI will reach its full potential when it is leveraged as augmented intelligence, using the power of highly skilled physicians and medical experts around the globe to make even more informed recommendations with the assistance of technology.
Virtual care will curb costs by reducing barriers to care. Healthcare costs continue to rise and consumers bear an increasing percentage of the financial burden. Costly care and medications, coupled with lack of access to expert medical advice, have led more people to defer medical tests and treatments in an attempt to protect their pocketbooks. But deferred care can create unintended consequences, as conditions worsen and more invasive (and expensive) treatments are required down the line. Virtual care promises to curb costs by helping patients gain affordable access and care for their needs—at the right time and with the right treatment.
As you can imagine, my colleagues and I are excited about the future of virtual care and the opportunity to continually modernize how people access and experience healthcare around the world. And we’re always eager to connect with those who share our passion for helping people: We’d love to hear from you and we invite you to read more about these predictions on our website. Wishing you a happy new year filled with progress toward the promise of virtual care!