Eran Orr is the Founder of XRHealth, the leader in extended reality and therapeutic applications.
When Covid-19 hit the United States, telehealth became front and center as a method to treat patients remotely, providing care to patients while keeping them and the doctors safe. According to a McKinsey & Company article, telehealth rose 46% in 2020 compared to 2019 when only 11% of U.S. patients used the remote service. The article also notes that since telehealth adoption rates of both patients and doctors are increasing rapidly and telehealth is becoming popular for more than just urgent care, there is $250 billion of health care revenue that could “potentially be virtualized.”
According to CB Insights (via Fierce Healthcare), telehealth investment reached a peak at $4.2 billion in 139 deals for the first quarter of 2021, which is almost double of what it was last year, at the same time.
Health care is taking a new turn and finally catching up to the 21st century.
There are many types of software doctors are using that include platforms like Zoom and others that are specifically designed for the health care industry. Platforms designed for the health care industry include Mend, Doxy Me, AMC Health and swyMed. However, these technologies act as a medium to communicate between the patient and the doctor and do not act as a medical device.
There are other platforms that utilize advanced technologies that can treat patients with the technology itself. Extended reality technology, which includes virtual and augmented reality, is a therapeutic care solution that’s overseen by a therapist and used as a medical device in treating patients for physical therapy, neurological disorders, ADHD, stress and anxiety, and many other conditions and symptoms. The virtual environment and the exercises that the patient uses while in it are instrumental in the recovery process.
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Additionally, a virtual environment can be used in many types of applications like creating an anonymous support group for patients, using characters to represent the patients while they all interact in a virtual therapeutic atmosphere.
While doctors and patients in the United States are quickly embracing telehealth, human resource departments are offering these same services to their employees. Julie Stone, managing director of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson, told Human Resources Executive that “Virtual care turned out to be just what the doctor ordered during the pandemic. Employers were quick to expand and educate employees on how to access virtual care, and employees — especially those who were hesitant to access traditional medical care — took advantage of it. While most employees used virtual care for regular screenings and checkups, a significant number were able to utilize it for diagnosis and treatment of a new illness, chronic conditions and importantly, mental health services.”
Companies are beginning to provide their employees with additional benefits and services that take the form of a supplemental health care benefit by offering workers virtual reality telehealth solutions that could treat medical symptoms right from their homes.
Companies understand that health and well-being (physical and mental health) affect employees’ job performance. To create ongoing support for their employees, companies worldwide are using telehealth solutions to treat patients for ongoing symptoms. An example of this is the recent announcement that Amazon has signed up multiple companies to their telehealth services, Amazon Care.
With the recent investments in telehealth, I expect that the industry will grow substantially. Patients enjoy being treated in their own homes and will not be so quick to return to in-office appointments, unless necessary. Covid-19 just kick-started an industry that was destined to grow and match the rise of technology.
What Covid-19 brought out of the woodwork is how technological advances can be used creatively to achieve the same result as what was once done in person. And sometimes people can achieve even better results when the work is done from afar.