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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The use of telemedicine has exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts see the changes remaining even after the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Given its heavily regulated and fragmented nature, health care tends to be slow to adopt innovation. But the pandemic has shown Americans the advantages of communicating with doctors remotely — and health insurance companies are paying attention.

What's new: According to FAIR Health's Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker, which draws from 31 billion private health care claim records, telemedicine claim lines increased an astounding 4,347% year-over-year in March.

Telemedicine services have been available for years, but health concerns around the pandemic combined with the fact that most doctor's offices and hospitals were effectively off-limits to non-COVID-19 patients have led millions of Americans to use their smartphone to access remote care for the first time.

  • The stock price of the leading telemedicine company Teladoc has risen by more than 30% since the beginning of March.

Telemedicine is only one aspect of the sclerotic health care sector that has been shaken up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Wearable devices like the Apple Watch are being used in academic studies to predict when COVID-19 cases might occur.
  • Jeff Semenchuk, chief innovation officer at Blue Shield of California, says the pandemic has pushed his company to digitize health care whenever possible. That includes efforts to make electronic patient health records more easily accessible and to simplify the laborious process of payment claims.
"COVID-19 has accelerated what we're doing with innovation around health care. It's really hit the gas pedal."
— Jeff Semenchuk

Go deeper

CDC official: Pandemic "explosion" of antibiotic resistance not seen

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Despite concerns over antimicrobial resistance flourishing during the pandemic as doctors use all their tools to help patients fight COVID-19, early indications are that their efforts may not be causing a large increase, a CDC official tells Axios.

Why it matters: AMR is a growing problem, as the misuse or overuse of antibiotics creates resistant pathogens that cause more than 2.8 million infections and 35,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
43 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.