Is telemedicine here to stay?

Industry News

Is telemedicine here to stay?

Mari Pack

Demand for telehealth services has prompted new innovations in the at-home care space. It has also spurred questions about the long-term effects, benefits, and limitations of virtual care. What types of at-home care can be provided safely without an in-person physical interaction and a physical examination? Is telehealth the new normal for patients and care providers? In this blog, we review studies, articles, and recent press releases to explore the future of at-home care. 

The rise of telehealth during COVID-19

At-home healthcare like pregnancy tests have been available since the 1970s — and HIV home-collection since 1996 — but constraints related to COVID-19 have launched telehealth, as well as care services like at-home diagnostic testing, into a new phase. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 17% of consumers had used telehealth,” writes Sasha Guttentag, PhD, a research scientist for telemedicine company GoodRx. 

GoodRx Research surveyed 1,042 individuals, and found that “almost half of respondents used [telehealth] for the first time during COVID-19.” 60% of respondents plan to use telehealth alongside in-person visits going forward, and 25% plan to use telehealth exclusively. The pandemic has cultivated a sense of good will around the potential of virtual healthcare. 

Virtual care as the new starting point 

With the increased popularity of telehealth, some companies plan to offer virtual-first healthcare plans. In October 2021, UnitedHealthcare announced “a virtual-first health plan that offers an integrated approach to provide care both virtually and in-person.” Patients are matched with a personalized care team, led by a dedicated primary care provider who “connect[s] the individual to in-person [...] providers and other health professionals when necessary.” According to an article published by JAMA Network, this kind of virtual-first care is positioned to become the “starting place for most primary care.” 

What this could look like for patients

There are a few virtual-first primary care variations for patients and physicians to explore in the future, as detailed by David C. Whitehead, MD and Ateev Mehrotra, MD of the JAMA Network. 

  1. MDLive offers “a virtual primary care physician (PCP) or other primary health care professional to provide care that supplements a patient’s in-person PCP.” While patients are still encouraged to see their in-person doctor, virtual PCPs maintain an additional, ongoing relationship with patients.  
  2. Another option is the one modeled by Firefly Health, in which “the virtual PCP [...] serves as a patient’s primary clinician,” not just an addition to the in-person PCP. Patients can access an entire virtual care team, including specialists. In this setup, patients who require in-person emergency healthcare are directed to a local urgent care. 


While it might not completely replace in-person care, telemedicine services and virtual care are the new normal. Most patients intend to continue to utilize at least some at-home services that their healthcare providers support, and virtual-first healthcare is getting a dry run. The Ash Wellness platform provides total integration of at-home diagnostic testing to boost in-person care and virtual-first telemedicine services for the future of healthcare. 

Learn more about how our flexible, white-label solution streamlines every aspect of diagnostic testing to launch at-home care for your business within weeks.

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