STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

The coronavirus pandemic could push telemedicine into the mainstream

Telemedicine technology isn't new, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought an explosion of new users to its platforms. The question is, will this newfound popularity last in a post-pandemic world?

Posted: Apr 28, 2020 9:49 AM


Telemedicine has been around for more than two decades, but its adoption among Americans has been relatively low. The coronavirus pandemic is quickly changing that.

With millions of people around the country forced to stay home in lockdown and worried about potentially exposing themselves to the virus, many of them are turning to telemedicine companies' virtual consultation services. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people that contract the coronavirus only suffer mild illness and can recover without leaving their homes. Telemedicine companies are stepping in to give patients a chance to talk through their symptoms and decide if they need to be hospitalized.

CareClix, a virtual health platform based in Alexandria, VA, has more than 20 million users across the US and says it saw a 50% increase in usage in March. Zipnosis, another telemedicine company based in Minneapolis, reported a 3,600% increase in virtual visits on its platform over an 11-day period last month.

"Unfortunately, it's taken some pretty extraordinary circumstances, but I think this will be a watershed moment for the industry," Zipnosis CEO Jon Pearce told CNN Business. "Certainly in the past few weeks with Covid, I think people's desire to have trusted advice from medical providers is just gone through the roof ... and that's what we can facilitate in a very fast fashion. And more importantly, we can facilitate that without leaving your home."

Both companies have different approaches to telemedicine.

CareClix, founded in 2012, connects patients to doctors through an on-demand video platform that attempts to recreate the in-person experience in a virtual setting — similar to chatting with your doctor on FaceTime.

"We really try to mimic what's done in brick and mortar," said CareClix co-founder and CEO John Korangy. "From the user's perspective for the patient and... the doctor, they're not doing anything different than they would if you came and saw me face to face. The only thing different is now we have a monitor in between us."

While CareClix's technology is used by hospital networks and healthcare providers around the US, the company also has an internal team of doctors that can provide remote services to patients.

Zipnosis, on the other hand, operates in what is known as asynchronous care — where the doctor and patient don't need to be in the same place (even virtually) at the same time. The company, founded over a decade ago, has users fill out a virtual questionnaire through a chatbot-like tool that packages their responses for a doctor to review and diagnose. Zipnosis claims this can dramatically speed up the process, allowing doctors to make a diagnosis in an average of 89 seconds.

"Instead of talking to a doctor over video, you would answer a series of yes [or] no questions," Pearce said, "the same questions they would be asking you in real life when instead of doing that, we have a really smart computer system do it."

Telemedicine has its limitations — some complex diagnoses and treatment may require in-person interactions. If a patient appears particularly sick, telemedicine companies will recommend they go to a clinic or hospital. But the technology can play an important role in easing some of the initial load from walk-ins, particularly as the global pandemic places strain on the healthcare system and makes people nervous about being exposed to the virus.

"What's happening is that people are worried," said Ann Mond Johnson, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association, a non-profit organization focused on increasing the adoption of virtual health technologies. "People don't know really what to do, where to go, whether or not they should get a test for the virus. And so the hospitals are really deeply concerned about managing exposure."

CareClix has begun offering free Covid-19 evaluations to its users, while over 40% of health care providers that use Zipnosis's technology are also offering free screenings.

Johnson says telemedicine as a concept has been around for more than 25 years, but its adoption by both patients and doctors was relatively slow until the crisis. And there are still psychological barriers that need to be broken through.

"In point of fact, you all know that you've interacted with a physician or a clinician and have had them provide a lot of services to you without ever laying hands on you," she said. "So part of it is overcoming this myth that somehow it's second class medicine."

But the extraordinary circumstances created by the coronavirus appear to be leading to a breakout moment that telemedicine companies hope will sustain even after the crisis passes.

"It's been a desire of the industry for a long time where we stopped talking about telemedicine or virtual care and it just becomes healthcare," said Pearce. "And I think this will be the catalyst for that."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 605426

Reported Deaths: 9642
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion836221331
Lake45189680
Allen32646547
Hamilton29240315
St. Joseph27260380
Elkhart24354344
Vanderburgh19292248
Tippecanoe17905133
Johnson14974293
Porter14707168
Hendricks14295248
Madison10909220
Vigo10688179
Clark10581139
Monroe9338110
Delaware9089134
LaPorte9007162
Howard8177143
Kosciusko803182
Warrick668798
Hancock6639104
Bartholomew6443100
Floyd6377109
Wayne6106161
Grant5965115
Dubois554079
Boone549467
Morgan535595
Henry505564
Marshall502684
Cass482663
Dearborn476245
Noble471257
Jackson421947
Shelby413881
Lawrence389179
Clinton372043
Gibson369159
DeKalb345964
Harrison345644
Montgomery343354
Knox334339
Miami319844
Steuben313045
Whitley304526
Wabash301447
Adams299635
Ripley297545
Putnam294149
Huntington290659
Jasper288134
White272242
Daviess266774
Jefferson262538
Decatur246583
Fayette246348
Greene239262
Posey238128
Wells234050
LaGrange227662
Scott223439
Clay221832
Randolph212848
Jennings197736
Sullivan191133
Spencer190121
Washington183722
Fountain183127
Starke174843
Jay167022
Owen163637
Fulton163130
Orange157234
Carroll156415
Rush154418
Perry152727
Vermillion148634
Franklin147833
Tipton131832
Parke13038
Pike116226
Blackford110922
Pulaski96837
Newton90721
Brown87534
Benton86510
Crawford7929
Martin73013
Warren6777
Switzerland6575
Union6267
Ohio4867
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 853982

Reported Deaths: 10599
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100550707
Cuyahoga849601082
Hamilton63509448
Montgomery42863417
Summit34586759
Lucas31151616
Butler30735231
Stark25598430
Warren19552140
Lorain18847223
Mahoning17215337
Lake15967154
Clermont15800111
Delaware1430578
Licking13130137
Trumbull12739313
Fairfield1269181
Greene11975136
Medina11504168
Clark10867265
Wood10289158
Allen9826126
Portage9213108
Miami911373
Richland9085117
Marion7437113
Tuscarawas7339181
Columbiana7286124
Pickaway721750
Wayne6987171
Muskingum693941
Erie6113127
Hancock549090
Ross546098
Scioto536364
Geauga503855
Darke467892
Ashtabula451073
Lawrence450154
Union447728
Sandusky434762
Mercer432488
Huron425441
Seneca424865
Auglaize421164
Shelby420522
Jefferson416769
Belmont412740
Washington385240
Athens37669
Putnam373575
Madison352129
Knox350222
Ashland342838
Fulton336543
Defiance328282
Crawford320573
Preble319137
Brown309121
Logan305532
Ottawa290143
Clinton287943
Williams277167
Highland273718
Jackson262445
Guernsey251325
Champaign249728
Fayette235130
Morrow23124
Perry228718
Holmes223874
Henry217349
Hardin211333
Coshocton204521
Van Wert201145
Gallia195426
Wyandot194651
Pike173917
Adams173015
Hocking171024
Carroll154216
Paulding143421
Noble120340
Meigs108024
Monroe100631
Harrison88421
Morgan82629
Vinton69513
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 10°
Feels Like: 20°
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 20°
Lima
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 20°
Light Snow Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events