Going Virtual: Healthcare, Chronic Conditions, & COVID-19

Going Virtual: Healthcare, Chronic Conditions, & COVID-19

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be a year to remember. It is the year when life as we knew it changed overnight, when economies crashed, and when we lost the lives of loved ones to a pervasive global pandemic. We will also look back at 2020 as the year the United States continued its battle against another health crisis: chronic conditions.

More than 60% of Americans are living with a chronic condition and 40% are living with two or more. Chronic conditions affect every part of a person’s life and when left untreated or undiagnosed, can lead to death and disability. People with chronic conditions are more vulnerable when faced with other illnesses as well. Death rates are 12 times higher for COVID-19 patients with chronic conditions as compared to others who become affected.

While the global pandemic has brought immeasurable tragedy, it has also brought about a dramatic shift in how medical care is sought and delivered in the US. Seemingly overnight, the majority of healthcare visits began to happen virtually thanks to the lifting of restrictions by public and private insurers. Virtual healthcare, or all the ways providers and patients use digital tools such as computers and smartphones to communicate with one another, has been widely accepted. In a survey conducted by McKinsey, 76% of respondents who’ve participated in virtual healthcare during COVID-19 indicated they were “highly or moderately likely” to use virtual healthcare going forward.

Employers have taken notice of the increased productivity and decreased absenteeism that come with virtual healthcare. A majority, 80%, of large employers believe that virtual healthcare will play an important role in how care is delivered in the future, up from 64% last year and 52% in 2018. Many plan to increase their virtual healthcare benefits after the pandemic is no longer a concern.

But simply shifting care from in person to virtual doesn’t go far enough to make a significant impact on the health of people living with chronic conditions. Currently, the healthcare system is reactive, which means that it doesn’t become activated until someone becomes sick and seeks treatment for a symptom. This works well for acute illnesses, but doesn’t help people with chronic conditions make the lifestyle changes necessary to improve their health and prevent problems before they happen.

Now that the majority of Americans are growing more comfortable receiving healthcare services virtually, it’s time that we empower them to use virtual self-care programs to close the gaps in the healthcare system and improve overall outcomes. Supplementing care from primary care physicians with the tools, data, and support of a virtual self-care program creates better outcomes for people with chronic conditions and reduces costs for employers.

In our latest report, “Reimagining Chronic Condition Care in the Age of COVID-19,” we dive deep into the overnight transformation of the healthcare landscape from in person to virtual and the ways we need to supplement the system to better address the chronic condition crisis in the US.

References

1*“Chronic Diseases in America.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 23, 2019. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm.

2*Tanner, Lindsey. “Coronavirus Death Rate Is Higher for Those with Chronic Illnesses.” Journal of Emergency Medical Services (blog), June 16, 2020. https://www.jems.com/2020/06/16/coronavirus-death-rate-is-higher-for-those-with-chronic-illnesses/

3*Webster, Paul. “Virtual Health Care in the Era of COVID-19.” The Lancet 395, no. 10231 (2020): 1180–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(20)30818-7

4*Bestsennyy, Oleg, Greg Gilbert, Alex Harris, and Jennifer Rost. Telehealth: A Quarter-Trillion-Dollar Post-COVID-19 Reality? (blog). McKinsey, May 29, 2020. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/telehealth-a-quarter-trillion-dollar-post-covid-19-reality#.

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