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: 1462456

Reported Deaths: 20308
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2005922494
Lake992001456
Allen903391005
Hamilton70705539
St. Joseph63078746
Elkhart48098622
Vanderburgh46217523
Tippecanoe42115330
Johnson37119516
Hendricks35078455
Porter33900460
Madison28036530
Clark25186321
Vigo24768341
LaPorte22894307
Monroe22201243
Howard21344372
Delaware20937363
Hancock18289217
Kosciusko17513199
Bartholomew17399212
Warrick16060212
Wayne15757296
Floyd15399252
Grant14898293
Morgan13934230
Boone13172136
Noble11421140
Dearborn11355112
Henry11312201
Shelby11231150
Marshall11041166
Dubois10782152
Jackson10174104
DeKalb9944128
Cass9942142
Lawrence9914219
Huntington9823139
Gibson9131125
Montgomery9005140
Knox8762124
Harrison8718111
Whitley844771
Steuben8340102
Jasper8069113
Putnam795197
Clinton792994
Miami7914133
Wabash7598138
Jefferson7551124
Ripley6993111
Adams6508101
Scott629086
Daviess6266127
White602379
Greene5913111
Clay587173
Wells5814120
Decatur5754118
Jennings572276
Fayette5657121
Posey529146
LaGrange512996
Randolph4925128
Washington482067
Owen480398
Fountain463579
Spencer438156
Starke434086
Sullivan432164
Fulton426790
Orange412682
Jay403964
Rush395736
Carroll371349
Franklin369850
Perry362155
Vermillion345062
Pike308945
Tipton307974
Parke305038
Pulaski266973
Blackford266755
Newton228359
Brown222654
Benton213321
Crawford211231
Switzerland189414
Martin181921
Warren169520
Union163619
Ohio119516
Unassigned0742

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2403645

Reported Deaths: 30922
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2596932036
Cuyahoga2572672998
Hamilton1666711699
Montgomery1103831586
Summit1066861382
Lucas895171149
Butler78647924
Stark747301383
Lorain62885783
Warren49934468
Mahoning49735909
Lake46850586
Clermont43541428
Delaware38876210
Trumbull38576748
Medina37611416
Licking36901401
Fairfield33848331
Greene32124416
Portage31381356
Clark30277440
Richland28251420
Wood27660289
Allen24372392
Miami22806389
Muskingum22298244
Columbiana22095399
Wayne21275354
Tuscarawas18847423
Erie18041221
Ashtabula17932338
Marion17503231
Scioto16553203
Ross16163249
Pickaway15536173
Hancock15251227
Geauga15244221
Lawrence13847186
Huron13399182
Union1329683
Belmont13255247
Jefferson12864257
Sandusky12770197
Athens11949106
Knox11511195
Seneca11454200
Ashland10795174
Darke10673196
Washington10564168
Auglaize10152141
Crawford9854175
Shelby9699155
Brown9400140
Fulton9235148
Guernsey9109115
Defiance9057134
Highland9035143
Logan8955141
Clinton8719121
Mercer8640111
Madison8568104
Preble8002160
Williams7848135
Putnam7731135
Ottawa7629120
Champaign7556112
Jackson7383114
Perry714598
Coshocton7043136
Morrow694580
Fayette662287
Hardin6219125
Pike617086
Gallia594989
Adams5779124
Van Wert5779120
Henry565592
Hocking5521103
Carroll4828100
Wyandot482289
Holmes4747161
Paulding401163
Meigs375071
Monroe299368
Noble279851
Harrison279461
Morgan276848
Vinton239845
Unassigned08
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