The shifting geography of telemedicine
Data shows that while telemedicine has boomed during the pandemic, its growth has varied depending on different states' lockdown policies.
Why it matters: As the pandemic begins to come under control, how lasting the telemedicine boom will be depends ultimately on whether the services can truly replace doctors.
By the numbers: A report from the consumer analytics company Second Measure demonstrates that the demand for telehealth services has skyrocketed since pandemic lockdowns began.
- Year-over-year growth reached a five-year high of 287% in the week of May 11 and has since averaged weekly year-over-year growth of over 150%.
- Not surprisingly, consumers have largely turned to telehealth because doctors' offices were closed or because they feared that in-person visits could expose them to the coronavirus.
Yes, but: Growth has actually been stronger in states that had looser COVID-19 restrictions than in stricter states, a trend that grew more pronounced in recent months.
- One possible explanation is that as the coronavirus came under control in states with stricter restrictions like New York, consumers began to feel more comfortable going back to a doctor's office, notes Liyin Yeo of Second Measure.
- The more recent increase in telemedicine use in looser states like Georgia also coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases, which may have discouraged consumers from in-person visits while making them more likely to need virtual care.
The bottom line: The pandemic will end — eventually — and when it does, we'll see whether telemedicine remains the future of health care.