Growth before pandemic resulted from emerging markets growth, increasing demand for accessible and affordable health care, home care monitoring demand, growing demand to reduce healthcare expenditure, shortage of health professionals, remote areas without medical coverage, rapid technological advances, elderly population with comorbidity illnesses and government initiatives in some countries. The growth was slow mainly because of lack of regulations and challenges with data breaches.
Going forward, is expected that aging population, increase in healthcare access, rising prevalence of chronic diseases and rising demand for telemedicine services due to COVID-19 will continue to drive the market.
Among all telemedicine drivers is the usage of wireless devices (such as smartphones) which is an element of everyday life across the world. Additionally, the availability and number of customers using wearable monitoring devices is also increasing at a rapid pace. Some research indicates that providers’ concerns about telehealth include security, workflow integration, effectiveness compared with in-person visits, and the future for reimbursement. We can boldly say that before Covid-19 there was silent resistance of accepting the telemedicine solutions by health professionals. Now they realize the human face of technology in telemedicine and feel that it could only help. In a telemedicine report Doximity published last year, the number of physicians who self-reported telehealth as a skill increased with 38% for some months versus 20% in a yerly bases previous period of times.
In the same report is also examining the consumer willingness for telemedicine. Consumers also indicate that they want telehealth. The surveys also show that consumers’ perception of the telemedicine service varies and proves that everyone could benefit from telemedicine service. Among most often are:
Consumers’ interest in telehealth is reaserched to be about 76% and actual usage of telemedicine shows that about 46% of consumers really use it. Factors for that are lack of awareness of telehealth offerings, education on types of care needs that could be met virtually, and understanding of insurance coverage. It is expected the number of actual users to increase as boomers continue to retire and more millennials become healthcare consumers.
In all countries patients’ willingness or insurance companies’ innovation strategies was the driving power for telemedicine. Also state agencies, public payers, and large commercial insurers have expanded telehealth access amid the pandemic. The majority of them are struggling to ensure that telehealth is being applied to the right patients for the right healthcare needs, increasing efficacy and efficiency in care delivery in order to reduse cost. Healthcare costs are rising across the world. The primary driver for rising healthcare costs is increased utilization of healthcare services, which results in the growth of consumer demand for innovative and new techniques, lifestyle factors, etc. Furthermore, it can also be attributed to the cost-shifting, from government programs to private payers. Low reimbursement rates have increased cost-shifting burden on hospitals and doctors, who, in turn, charge much higher rates for the same facilities to private payers, which ultimately affects the health insurance rates. It is estimated that elderly care is four times as expensive as it is for those who are younger, and the elderly population consumes between 40% and 50% of the healthcare resources.
Telehealth solutions have demonstrated the ability to enhance health outcomes and reduce costs. Telemedicine saves the patients’, providers’, and payers’ money, when compared to the traditional approaches.
Telemedicine has been decreasing the cost of healthcare, while increasing efficiency through improved management of chronic diseases, reduced travel times, shared health professional staffing, and fewer and shorter hospital stays.
In addition, many analyses suggests that approximately 20% of all emergency room visits could potentially be avoided via virtual urgent care offerings, 24% of healthcare office visits and outpatient volume could be delivered virtually, and an additional 9% “near-virtually.”
Furthermore, up to 35% of regular home health attendant services could be virtualized, and 2% of all outpatient volume could be shifted to the home setting, with tech-enabled medication administration. Thus, owing to all aforementioned factors, the market is expected to witness high growth over the next 5 years.
In Bulgaria, like in the other countries adoption of telemedicine solutions before Covid-19 was slow, beside every one of the healthcare players on the market agreed on the potential and opportunity that this technology gives. The regulations are not settled yet, the doctors feel unsecured. The patients also feel certain level of insecurity, but moreover they are not familiar with real benefits that telemedicine can bring. Also, the current technologic context of telemedicine appears to promote a healthcare that counts more on the participation of patients as active elements that is something different from the healthcare culture on Bulgarian patient.
The future of telemedicine services market in all over the world is influenced by major trends of implementation and integration of the internet of things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications with telemedicine. All of that can really improve the speed and accuracy of the diagnosis and treatment. Also Big data analytics can process data collected from telehealth modalities, including both objective (vital signs, ambient environment) and subjective data (symptoms, patient behavior), along with historical data to enable risk prediction and management.