Telehealth will never replace in-person care — it’s important for healthcare industry stakeholders understand that virtual care is only useful in certain contexts, according to Zocdoc Founder and CEO Oliver Kharraz.
“Some people say that digital has already had its moment, but that’s because they were imagining that virtual was going to do to in-person treatment what the particular car did to the horse-drawn buggy. And I think that was never a realistic assumption to begin with, ” he said during an interview last week at HLTH in Las Vegas.
To Kharraz, it is helpful in order to think about telehealth like an e-scooter. When these vehicles started popping up in American cities, it took some getting used to. But now, many urban dwellers appreciate them and acknowledge they are useful in a few circumstances.
E-scooters have by no means replaced cars, but they are certainly suitable for some short trips. For example, you wouldn’t use an e-scooter to get to the airport, but a person might use it to visit a friend who lives a mile away. Similarly, you wouldn’t make use of telehealth in order to get a colonoscopy, but you might use it for a follow-up visit with your gastroenterologist.
“If you approach it with that mindset, I think telehealth is growing into what it’s meant to be pretty quickly, ” Kharraz declared. “But it is one tool in the toolbox, which has many, many tools. I think we just need to have realistically-sized expectations and we won’t be disappointed. ”
This “one tool in the particular toolbox” mindset is something that patients are on board with, according to Zocdoc’s research . A full 77% of patients agree with typically the statement “I believe I will utilize a combination of telehealth plus in-person care in the future, ” and 83% of providers agreed that most care will include a combination of telehealth and in-person visits in the future. This data comes from a survey that was conducted in May — it gathered responses from more than 400 patients in addition to roughly 200 providers.
And patients “seem to value the option of telehealth, even though they don’t actually end up choosing telehealth very often, ” Kharraz pointed out.
A provider who offers in-person treatment as well as virtual visits has a 40% higher likelihood of being chosen by the patient than a provider who only offers real time appointments, he said. This particular trend remains true on the flip side — a new provider who offers both options is twice as likely to be selected by patients than a provider who just offers telehealth.
As for which usually type associated with appointments lend themselves best to virtual modalities, Kharraz thinks mental health and follow-up visits are this obvious answers.
“Usually this comes back to a mind-body thing, ” he said. “If it’s talking, then it’s fine. Mental health visits are fine. Plus follow-up visits are good because they’re talking, but for an initial consultation, patients realize it is like being offered tele-pizza. There’s not really such some sort of thing because you have to be in often the same room to taste it, smell it and even eat that. They think about medicine in much the same way. ”
From Kharraz’s point of view, he believes telehealth will “engulf” all mental wellness care “very soon, ” with “a very small remnant” regarding visits being conducted within person.
Zocdoc’s data supports this thesis. In Might 2020, 74% of mental health appointments were carried out virtually. The next May possibly, that percentage rose in order to 85%, and in May 2022, it rose to 87%.
“To be frank, I think the telehealth revolution inside mental well being has really improved access by a lot for your average consumer. I think that’s really an incredible blessing, ” Kharraz said.
Photo: venimo, Getty Images