Telemedicine is, in basic forms at least, thought to have been around since the late 1950s. But it is only in more recent years that it has become a fixture of mainstream healthcare delivery.
While the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly played a significant role in the heightened pace of adoption, the evolution of technology meant that such services have been gradually becoming more widely available for at least the last 15 years.
If you want to learn more about what telemedicine is and how it works, we wrote about this in June 2020, when much of the world was in "lockdown."
Here, we will explore some of the most notable statistics about telemedicine that demonstrate its impact on global healthcare.
Who uses telemedicine services?
1. 80% of people have accessed care via telemedicine at least once in their lives
According to a Rock Health report published in February 2023, four in five people have used a telemedicine service at least once.
The same report found that in 2022, telemedicine adoption grew particularly strongly among groups that are often underserved in healthcare. For example, Rock Health reported:
- A 12% increase in telemedicine adoption among over 55s.
- A 13% increase in telemedicine adoption among people living in rural areas.
2. 74% of millennials prefer teleconsultations to in-person appointments
A GlobalMed report found that nearly three-quarters of millennials preferred the convenience and immediacy of teleconsultations to in-person appointments. GlobalMed reported that the ability to save time travelling to and from appointments and avoiding sitting in waiting rooms were among the reasons why millennials preferred such appointments.
3. 96% of telepsychiatry patients are satisfied with virtual mental healthcare
This statistic might be the perfect demonstration of telemedicine not being new; it's a finding from an academic study published in July 2006!
The research in question found that mental health patients undergoing telepsychiatry appointments demonstrated significant improvements in specific mental health measures. In contrast, those undergoing in-person visits presented no changes.
All Now Health International members get access to our Employee Assistance Programme or Member Assistance Programme, depending on their plan type. As part of these programmes, our members can access virtual consultations to get help with various aspects of their lives and five free sessions with a registered psychiatrist per plan year.
Learn more about our international health insurance plans.
Do people find telemedicine effective?
4. 55% of people believe they receive better care via teleconsultations
A February 2022 McKinsey report based on research conducted the previous year found that 55% of patients were “much more satisfied” with teleconsultations and telehealth care than in-person care.
The same report found that:
- 60% of patients found telemedicine more convenient than in-person health appointments.
- 40% planned to continue using telemedicine after the Covid-19 pandemic.
- 63% were interested in broader digital health solutions, such as the ability to schedule appointments online and receive digital-first healthcare plans.
But interestingly, McKinsey also found that only 32% of clinicians thought telemedicine improves patient experiences, and 36% agreed that telehealth services were more convenient than in-person ones.
5. 52.5% of clinicians believe they deliver more effective treatment and follow-ups via teleconsultations
In contrast to McKinsey’s findings, a ResearchGate paper published in January 2019 found that 52.5% of healthcare professionals believed teleconsultations were more effective for delivering treatment and follow-up appointments with established patients.
While this paper was published pre-pandemic and over three years before McKinsey's report, the contrasting numbers could provide some insight into the future of telemedicine.
Are we moving towards a framework where initial appointments happen in person, but then longer-term consultations are delivered virtually?
6. Only 5% of virtual healthcare appointments result in the need for an in-person appointment
If the trends identified by the American Academy of Neurology at the height of the first wave of the pandemic become entrenched for the long term, then the idea of in-person appointments leading to long-term virtual care may not happen.
The body found that only 5% of telemedicine appointments identified a need for an in-person consultation to occur. But crucially, this study looked only at telehealth appointments for children. So if only 5% of who most would consider the most vulnerable patients are referred for an in-person meeting, could that number be even lower across the general population?
Telemedicine before and after Covid-19
7. Telemedicine adoption grew 44% between 2015 and 2019
The same GlobalMed report highlighting how much millennials prefer telemedicine earlier also demonstrated that such services didn't just spring up due to Covid-19.
On the contrary, the report identified growth of 44% in telemedicine adoption from 2015 to 2019.
8. Before Covid-19, 37% of people had used telemedicine services
American data analytics firm J.D. Power, although most famous for providing data about the automotive industry, found in a 2022 study that 67% of people had used telemedicine services, up from the 37% who said they had during a similar survey conducted before the Covid-19 pandemic.
9. 27% of patients report feeling more comfortable with telemedicine post-Covid 19
While the Covid-19 pandemic may not have brought the invention of telemedicine, it certainly left many people without a choice as to how they would access medical consultations.
According to a Doximity paper published in September 2020, the result was that over a quarter of patients felt more comfortable using telemedicine than before the pandemic. Perhaps the only barrier was insecurity about meeting someone online!
What do these statistics tell us about telemedicine?
One of the most significant things noticeable from looking at different reports and studies is the vast range of findings and differing responses to the same questions.
This is likely an indication of where telemedicine is as a concept. There's no question it's here to stay. However, most healthcare providers worldwide are still defining and deciding how to use it and whether its use should be led by themselves, patients, circumstances, or a combination of the three.
Is telemedicine available with a Now Health International plan?
In our most recent Product Review in April 2023, we renamed Telemedicine to Teleconsultation and made it even more convenient for our members. Now, members who access these services within the Now Health International medical provider network will have their costs for such services paid in full.
Learn more about the benefits you can enjoy with a Now Health International private health plan.