Telehealth, also known as telemedicine, is a tool for remotely delivering healthcare services, such as examinations and consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. Telehealth enables healthcare professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients without needing an in-person visit. Telehealth services allow patients to communicate with healthcare professionals remotely or by visiting dedicated telehealth kiosks. Telehealth provides great convenience for patients and increases healthcare access, especially for rural patients.
The concept of telehealth evolved with the development of telecommunication technologies. Telemedicine was designed to treat patients who resided in remote locations, far from local health facilities, or in areas where medical personnel were in short supply. While telemedicine is still used to solve these challenges today, it is rapidly being considered a tool for providing more convenient medical care. The need for more convenient care and the shortage of medical professionals (especially primary care practitioners) has spurred the expansion of telemedicine businesses.
The emerging field of mobile health is influencing telemedicine’s expansion. Patients are starting to use technology to monitor and track their health, with many user-friendly mobile health apps and new mobile medical devices available. Simple home-use medical gadgets that can collect patients’ vital signs and identify ear infections, monitor glucose levels, or measure blood pressure, allow patients to gather medical information without the in-person visit. As a result, as more people are becoming more proactive about utilizing technology to manage their health, they will be more open to other forms of care, including telehealth.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in investment and innovation in healthcare through telehealth technologies. The telehealth industry has enormous promise for chronic care management, mental health services, and in-home care delivery. These services are especially important for the elderly with physical and cognitive impairments. Virtual health technologies, particularly telehealth, are becoming increasingly significant and popular to meet the needs of an aging population and increase chronic disease incidences.
Remote patient monitoring and telehealth visits are connected health solutions becoming increasingly crucial for delivering and managing healthcare to the elderly population. According to World Population Prospects, the 2019 Revision data, the population of 65 and older is growing faster than that of other age groups. In 2019, there were 703 million people aged 65 and above in the global population, which is expected to double to 1.5 billion by 2050. This significant increase in the aging population is being driven by declines in fertility and improvements in longevity.
Aging is associated with progressive degradation in the structure and function of organs. The aging population is more likely to suffer from various chronic ailments. The rising prevalence of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and renal failures, among others, pushes the demand for telehealth solutions. The prevalence of chronic diseases in the elderly population is 64/1,000 people. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental illness are among the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that are becoming more prevalent. As a result, the global trend of the rapidly increasing elderly population is expected to increase the number of individuals suffering from chronic diseases. This, in turn, will raise demand for and adoption of telehealth solutions, driving the market growth.
Moreover, owing to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare delivery witnessed a shift, with telehealth visits increasing in late March 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance in February 2020 advising people and healthcare professionals to practice social distancing. The organization also recommended delivering healthcare services through virtual means such as telehealth. In March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an important measure that would allow for greater flexibility in providing safe and effective care during the COVID-19 pandemic. These interim changes were designed to stimulate the use of telemedicine while relaxing earlier standards. Regulatory waivers announced during the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidance practices encouraging virtual visits and CDC recommendations for telehealth services also positively impacted the market.
Thus, the demand for telehealth services is likely to increase with the growing adoption of digital health practices and transitioning healthcare delivery modes. The global telehealth market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.6% to reach $539.73 billion by 2029, according to Meticulous Research®.
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