Why telehealth, boosted by the pandemic, could revolutionize health care

It’s a convenient, cost-effective way to reach underserved communities, and it’s a key part of the billions being invested in emerging digital health companies.

By Mitchell Schnurman

Telehealth has been around for decades, but the pandemic pushed it into the mainstream, and it’s now growing in many directions.

Up to 17% of outpatient and office visits are through telehealth, roughly 38 times more than before the pandemic, McKinsey & Co. said in a July report.

And it’s only getting more popular: Telehealth has the potential to become a $250 billion market, the consulting firm said. It also could help revolutionize health care. By making doctor’s visits more accessible, convenient and cost-effective, telehealth has been reaching underserved communities in rural areas and urban centers, where
residents often don’t get the care they need.

“It can be a great enabler in improving health equity,” said Oleg Bestsennyy, a McKinsey partner in New York who helps health companies with next-generation models of care. “Whether the problems are geographic, racial or socio-economic, telehealth has the potential to overcome them. We’re starting to see it put to use to address some of those health inequities in the vulnerable population.”

The upside goes beyond talking to doctors on a smartphone or computer. By adding electronic devices, sensors and at-home blood tests, telehealth is becoming a key part of an emerging digital health industry.

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