COVID-19 forced health care providers to meet growing telemedicine needs and medical professionals are continuing the practice and expanding it to other areas of care.
Geisinger this week announced it is adding on-demand virtual visits for conditions that routinely end up in one of the health system’s urgent care centers. Now, someone battling the flu or a cold, another type of infection or even a bee sting can be handled through a telemedicine appointment without ever stepping foot into a doctor’s office.
“Virtual on-demand visits add another level of convenience for Geisinger patients who need to see a provider quickly,” said David Fletcher, Geisinger’s associate vice president for telehealth. “Geisinger’s telemedicine capabilities provide patients with the care they need in the comfort of their homes.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a 154% increase in telemedicine use in the final week of March 2020, during the pandemic’s earliest days exactly one year ago, from the same time in 2019. According to data from McKinsey, telehealth remains a popular option for patients, especially as more providers and patients become familiar with it. Following the initial spike last spring, the utilization of telehealth has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the pandemic, McKinsey reported.
Those trends have played out locally as well. Fletcher said Geisinger went from “just under 1,000 telemedicine visits per month prior to the pandemic to over 70,000 in the initial months for an over 9,000% growth rate,” he said. “In recent months, we’ve seen just over 20,000 visits per month, which is still over 2,000% higher than pre-COVID.
“We have a broad range of specialties continuing to use telemedicine. Some of our specialties with the highest utilization are family medicine, psychiatry, gastroenterology, neurology, pediatrics, and cardiology.
New York University business professor Scott Galloway said in his 2021 book “Post Corona” that the COVID-19 pandemic has moved technological market penetration forward by 10 years in 12 months. Galloway specifically cited online shopping and food delivery, social media development, and telemedicine.
With Geisinger’s new on-demand telehealth program, providers can assess your symptoms virtually and provide care, referrals and/or prescriptions without having to see you in the clinic. The health system offers telehealth visits for primary care, urgent care and 72 specialties. On-demand visits are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Geisinger has seen enormous growth in telehealth and virtual care over the past 18 months, and we’ll continue to offer and improve this technology for our patients going forward,” Dr. Paul Simonelli, chair of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Geisinger, said. “On-demand virtual visits bring one more aspect of healthcare into the home, making better health easier for our patients and our communities.
For more information about telehealth at Geisinger, or to see a demo, visit geisinger.org/telemedicine.