Virtual health was on the fringes of healthcare for decades, but the pandemic ushered it centerstage overnight, and consumers and healthcare professionals woke up to its potential.
Virtual health visits grew by more than 3,000 percent during COVID-19, with 150 million telehealth claims in less than two years. This data shows how virtual care is leading the way; it is a game changer, spurring innovations and reshaping consumer perceptions.
Buoyed by this momentum in consumer demand, most healthcare systems are expanding their virtual healthcare capabilities.
Understanding virtual health
Telehealth, telemedicine, and tele-practice are terms used to describe virtual health, and they are facets of the same service that caters to remote patients. The term remote is literal and figurative because, in virtual health, a provider and patient do not have to be in the same room to communicate; they can be anywhere and connect via the telephone or videoconferencing.
Virtual health is a boon for patients who do not want to visit the hospital or clinic physically, for the infirm or ailing, or for people living in underserved areas. It is also an advantage for healthcare providers because it saves them money, improves clinical outcomes, increases patient engagement, and expands access to care. The cost of physical healthcare infrastructures and overheads are usually passed on to the patient, but virtual health helps compact resources, thereby reducing operational costs.
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For example, several large-scale health systems have reported that direct-to-consumer telemedicine significantly reduces visits to emergency and urgent care facilities and costs.
Virtual health economics
Several advanced care models of virtual health go by different descriptions, such as longitudinal virtual treatment or virtual diagnostics but essentially, they mean the same thing: enabling distance communication between provider and patient, thus reducing the expenditure on resources.
It is also possible to achieve more savings in acute care by implementing virtual care models, such as tele-ICUs (intensive care units) and innovative home care models. In both situations, off-site clinicians and specialists provide critical inputs for patients needing urgent solutions or life-saving interventions. This rising trend will soon shift outpatient spending of $250 billion to virtual environments.
The benefits of such developments need little overemphasis; consumers are happy to receive personalized attention and increased convenience, and providers benefit from deeper patient engagement and reduced costs.
50 digital health companies raised around $100 million in 2021
The first half of 2021 was a spectacular time for the digital health sector.
According to global communications and research firm Mercom Capital Group’s report, venture capital funding reached $15 billion in June 2021, with most of it in the telehealth sector. Compared to the first half of 2020, funding was up by 138% in 2021.
In the first half of 2021, corporate funding, including venture capital, public market financing, and debt, raised $19 billion for digital health companies.
The total amount invested in digital health in the first half of 2021 surpassed the sum raised in 2020 and is the highest amount raised in a single year since 2010. Nearly 30 percent of the funding raised in the first half of 2021 went to telehealth.
The second half of 2021 was equally impressive. Digital health patient-centric companies raised $5.3 billion (in a total of 129 deals), accounting for 69% of the funding in this period.
50 digital health companies raised around $100 million in 2021.
Virtual healthcare is here to stay.
As health systems strive to scale up to the next level of proficiency, virtual healthcare will get them there faster. It adapts to the full spectrum of health solutions, including initial diagnosis, second opinions, consultations, chronic condition management, and critical care interventions. And all this without the hassle of physical visits and time wasting for patients.
The purpose of medicine is to cure, irrespective of distance, time, and location. It does not matter where you are; healthcare must be available. Virtual healthcare has turned this promise into a guarantee.
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