A new report released this week from Bloomberg Intelligence predicted that the telehealth sector could bring in $20 billion in U.S. revenue by 2027.
The Digital Reshaping the Health Care Ecosystem publication said that virtual care is set to “become a staple” of healthcare delivery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telehealth by years, providing safe and convenient access to telehealth services,” said Duane Wright, senior research analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
“With more major healthcare providers embracing telehealth services, our analysis finds annual revenue growth for top telehealth providers at 30%,” Wright said.
Wright and fellow analysts contended that the industry has reached a “sea change” with the public health crisis, with incumbents and large managed-care companies driving the next growth phase.
“Virtual care will [increasingly] become the norm, we believe, after the pandemic pushed patients away from in-person visits,” read the report. “A reversion to old practices and business models appears impossible to us after the pandemic forced meaningful change across all the key constituents.”
The analysts highlighted the potential of remote patient monitoring technology and smart devices, including implantable cardiac monitors and continuous glucose monitors.
“The pandemic accelerated the industry’s rate of uptake by a factor of years and has created a flywheel effect for the overall virtual ecosystem,” they wrote.
“The changes in healthcare delivery necessitated by shelter-in-place edicts raised awareness and showcased the capabilities of the virtual channel across both patients and physicians,” they added. “This in turn resulted in increased technology investments by providers and health systems, which are increasingly leveraging the assets to provide care and reduce costs.”
Although the researchers acknowledged the removal of policy roadblocks, they did not go into detail about the roles federal and state legislation may play in telehealth adoption.
They did, however, predict that 15% of total outpatient visits could be virtual within three to five years.
“We don’t view the 15% estimate as a peak, but rather a waypoint as digital increasingly becomes the front door to healthcare,” they wrote.
Who are the telehealth ‘super utilizers?’
Interestingly, a report released this week from Trilliant Health took a somewhat more measured view on the future of virtual care.
Noting that telehealth use tapered in 2021 from its wild peak at the beginning of the pandemic, researchers for that report observed that women are driving most of the telehealth utilization.
The largest percentage (45%) of telehealth patients only had one virtual visit, with about 14% classified as “high” or “super” utilizers with seven or more visits.
Super utilizers are typically on the younger side, and mostly using behavioral health. They are typically geographically concentrated in areas with higher incomes.
Analysts noted that “willful endurers” – those living in the “here and now,” health-wise – and “self-achievers” – the most proactive when it comes to wellness – are more likely to use virtual care.
From an economic perspective, researchers noted that the number of tech-enabled providers is continuing to grow, with demand likely to decrease post-pandemic.
They pointed to Amazon and Walmart as major players who entered the game in 2021, saying that traditional providers are not equipped to compete with retail suppliers.
“Our research indicates that consumer preferences and many of the prevailing narratives on the market outlook for telehealth are seemingly incongruent, reinforcing caution for organizations that are planning their virtual care strategies solely based on industry hype,” said Sanjula Jain, Trilliant Health chief research officer and senior vice president of market strategy, in a statement.