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Will Telehealth Be A Triumphant Replacement For America’s Ailing Healthcare System?

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Americans have varying opinions in terms of the country’s eroding healthcare system following a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Results of the poll show that fewer than half of Americans are satisfied with the current state of the healthcare system. Further indicators revealed that just about 12% of surveyed Americans feel that it’s handled very well.

The recent indicators have only shed more light on the country’s crippling healthcare system, as a report from the American Hospital Association (AHA) found that between 2010 and 2021 roughly 136 hospitals closed down, of which 19 closed in 2020 alone. 

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Remarks on the systems' poor conditions have fallen on deaf ears, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) recently took to the Senate floor, calling on the government to pass the Medicare for All bill.

“While it is not discussed much in the corporate media or here in the halls of Congress, we have, today, in the United States, the most inefficient, bureaucratic, and expensive health care system in the world,” Sanders said.

The same AHA report found that 74% of hospital closures were in states that did not have proper Medicare expansion for less than a year.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that around 28 million Americans (8.6%) did not have any form of healthcare insurance at any time of the year in 2020. Private healthcare coverage remained the most prevalent choice with 66.5% of Americans stating they have some form of medical insurance.

The complex system has not only left many Americans unsatisfied with the current state of things but has only created a perplexing sentiment for investors narrowing in on the broader macroeconomic conditions.

Questions coming from all corners of the healthcare sector have kept many experts wondering whether departure from normative ideologies could help become a suitable solution for the ailing sector.

While the solutions are far and wide between, many argue that improvements for the overall system should fall part of the government's responsibility. Nowadays, around two-thirds of Americans believe that the federal government should take more hands-on action to resolve recurring problems, a steady increase from 62% in 2017.

The Shift To Telehealth

The last few years of crisis have raised multiple alarms signaling the need for more adaptive and intuitive innovation. The shift to telehealth or telemedicine protocols has created a new benchmark that will have a lasting effect on the system in the years to come.

The regulatory expansion of telehealth has rapidly increased overall market capitalization, with the U.S. telehealth market size valued at $23.8 billion in 2021 according to Nova One advisor research. And market value is only set to increase in the coming years, with estimates for 2030 currently standing at more than $309.9 billion.

On the back of this expansion, companies in the telehealth industry such as Teladoc Health Inc. (NYSE:TDOC), Doximity Inc. (NYSE:DOCS), and Uphealth Inc. (NYSE:UPH), among others have left remarks that are now echoing throughout the industry.

As more aspects of our everyday lives become increasingly digital, investors have also recently caught sight of how telemedicine technology has transformed in recent years. The use of telehealth is not only providing consumers better access to the medical resources they require, but it’s also shedding a new perspective on how it can revolutionize the basic principles of medical care.

Estimates by McKinsey indicate that the global telehealth market will become a quarter trillion dollar opportunity in the coming years, up from the $3 billion in revenue in the American market pre-pandemic.

Telehealth services and products have transformed the way people utilize and access the many medical resources needed to improve their lives.

Imagine being able to virtually meet up with a healthcare professional while you’re on holiday, refill a prescription without ever leaving the house, or be able to know if can you change insurance plans mid-year would affect your annual premiums.

There’s so much more that telehealth can provide and facilitate than what our contemporary understanding allows us to understand.

Investors have caught on to this as well, in more ways than possible.

One such example is Chinese-based Miaoshou Doctor, a telemedicine platform that provides online healthcare services such as consultations, drug purchases, and distributions through a web-based platform or app. The company raised $84 million in a Series D funding round, exceeding the company valuation of $1 billion.

American-based, Gyant is another well-known online health services provider that secured $13.6 million in financing back in 2020.

Throughout the marketplace, investors are redirecting major capital investments towards telehealth companies to fast-track industry development.

The question remains on whether telehealth will be a suitable replacement for the ailing American healthcare system.

In short, there is no direct answer, but it may provide a near-term impact that can later transpire into long-term solutions.

The reality of telehealth has become a triumphant success in a short period, which has made an impression on those few Americans who feel that federal and state regulators will need to take more firm action to help bring about change and improvements to the healthcare system.

A Harris poll found that roughly 15% of adults used telehealth services and products for the first time during the height of COVID-related lockdowns. The same poll revealed that 76% of respondents were now more likely than ever before to make use or continue using telehealth in the coming years.

Growth and recommendations, through the help of private capital investments, are slowly helping to bring sweeping changes to how many Americans perceive the importance of implementing adequate and innovative systems.

The Bottom Line

Time is slowly starting to catch up to the American healthcare system, as more consumers start to notice the erosion slowly exhausting the sector from all sides.

Though we might still be a few years from physically seeing the government taking a more hands-on approach, it’s possible that telehealth, and the technology and digital tools that underpin it can become a supportive addition to the ailing system in the long term.

Without proper guidance and regulatory assistance, these adoptions will remain restricted, leaving both traditional healthcare practices and telemedicine divided.

As we slowly bridge the gap, and private investors start to relinquish the possibilities that telehealth offers both consumers and greater macroeconomic performance, there might be a chance for telehealth to bring on more prolific changes aside from what it already has done in a short amount of time.