Jul 17, 2020 - Health

Telehealth is unlikely to replace physical doctor's visits, even with 5G

Screenshot of Axios' Ina Fried and Mei Kwong
Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried (L) with Mei Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. Screenshot: Axios

Boosting telehealth services with 5G likely won't eliminate the need for physical doctor's visits, Mei Kwong, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy, said on Friday during an Axios virtual event on Friday.

The big picture: Telehealth has experienced massive growth during the coronavirus pandemic, as more health providers have had to pivot services for patients stuck at home.

What she's saying: "So really, telehealth is a compliment to what you're doing with your healthcare services ... it's just another tool in the toolkit for the provider to use in providing that service," Kwong said.

  • "I don't think that in-person service will ever go away, at least not for the foreseeable future, but there will definitely be more things you can do with the technology and do it safely and effectively."

Yes, but: Policymakers are concerned about telehealth widening the digital divide, Kwong said.

  • "Will everybody be able to access it? And that's been a major concern of policymakers if they want to make sure that nobody is left behind, that there isn't this digital divide if we go forward with telehealth of some people being able to access it, and others aren't," she said.

Go deeper: 5G rollout advances despite pandemic, but hazards loom

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