In the last few years, an increasing number of patients have eschewed in-person medical consultations in favour of teleconsultations – medical consultations performed through dedicated healthcare portals and apps, and/or consumer videocalling platforms such as WhatsApp, Zoom, and Skype.
This adoption rate, however, was significantly accelerated in 2020 by the advent of COVID-19, which left many people unable to access health resources due to either their vulnerability to the virus or because lockdown restrictions meant that they were unable to leave their homes.
Around the world, many governments responded to the closure and newfound inaccessibility of healthcare facilities by loosening previous restrictions on the practice of telemedicine – in particular, teleconsultations. This decision, perhaps unsurprisingly, resulted in mass adoption of these services among patients and providers globally.
By relocating the site of healthcare delivery from primary care clinics and other healthcare facilities, teleconsultations reduce the number of barriers that might ordinarily prevent patients from seeking medical attention: appointments can be booked remotely and at a date and time that is convenient for them, while the consultation itself does not require them to travel or otherwise leave their home. As a result, teleconsultations have been shown to significantly improve people’s health. Indeed, in addition to reducing the number of healthcare barriers, teleconsultation services enable providers to consult with more patients than they otherwise would be able to in a face-to-face setting, which does not only reduce waiting times, but also enables patients to receive their diagnosis and treatment(s) faster, a factor that is vital in the context of health conditions such as cancer, where early treatment is essential to prevent the disease from spreading further.
By virtue of how teleconsultation systems do not require patients to live in (relative) close proximity to their physician or another medical professional, teleconsultation systems enable people living in rural areas to receive high-quality healthcare. This, of course, is dependent on their individual or local level of infrastructure, but this technology promises, at the very least, to reduce the uneven geographical distribution of healthcare services, in which, at present, urban populations are unintentionally favoured over, and to the detriment of, rural communities.
Considering the relative ease by which physicians can conduct teleconsultations over in-person consultations, it is perhaps unsurprising that these services cost much less than the latter. Our research indicates that the average teleconsultation will cost an average of $32.40 in 2025, compared to $93.90 for an in-person consultation.
As with several other telemedicine technologies, the usefulness of teleconsultation systems is limited by the simple fact that they require patients and providers to possess the necessary infrastructure.
In the case of patients, this is limited to a robust internet connection and a device capable of transmitting and receiving audio-visual data, such as a smartphone or tablet. In the case of providers, establishing a teleconsultation service involves considerable capital and operational costs, especially where a provider wishes to develop their own healthcare portal or app. However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic resulted in many providers eschewing purpose-built platforms for consumer applications.
And while it is not yet known whether the world’s governments and regulators will revert to the pre-pandemic status quo after lockdown restrictions are eased and/or COVID-19 abates, this current system is providing a wealth of opportunities for providers.
Our latest whitepaper, The Doctor is Always in: How Teleconsultations Improve Patient Care, explores the current telemedicine landscape, assessing the global impact of COVID on international healthcare and identifying market constrains and growth opportunities.
Download the Whitepaper: The Doctor is Always in: How Teleconsultations Improve Patient Care
Related Research: Telemedicine