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Consumer Adoption of Telemedicine

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, more consumers have used telemedicine than ever before. Venture investment in telemedicine is up, and big and small players are making land grabs for their share of the market, with many rolling out virtual–first care offerings. So with these accelerants—balanced with the full return of in-person care—what’s the state of telemedicine?

To answer this question and many more, we have surveyed U.S. adults every year since 2015 to check in with consumers and their relationship to digital health. Rock Health’s Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey (hereto referred to as the “Survey”) is a U.S. Census-matched sample of adults age 18 and over—with a distinct group of adults surveyed each year. Respondents used their personal desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet to complete the survey in English. In both 2020 and 2021, 7,980 U.S. adults were surveyed each year in the summer to fall timeframe; in previous years, we surveyed approximately 4,000 U.S. adults annually. For statistical analyses, we used logistic regression to determine the association between a primary predictor and outcome of interest, controlling for covariates (i.e., confounders) in multivariate regression analysis.

Before we dive in, let’s define our terms. We define telemedicine as tech-enabled modalities that enable consumers to receive medical care or advice remotely from clinicians. Telemedicine can be synchronous (a live video visit or phone call) or asynchronous (exchanging a text, email, or picture with a clinician).

The pandemic-induced demand for remote care—and the accompanying ingenuity of innovators at organizations big and small—have evolved the conventional parameters of telemedicine. Here’s how we see a few assumptions about telemedicine being replaced by new paradigms:

Old: Telemedicine as a business model. → New: Telemedicine as a tool.

Let’s be clear: traditional telemedicine service providers are not going away anytime soon. They’ve become entrenched (and in some cases, massive) organizations that will continue to compete in an increasingly commoditized market where winning is predominantly about market share, not product differentiation. But beyond the traditional video visit, telemedicine is now embedded in many solutions as a tool to connect patients and providers. Few (if any) emerging startups today would call themselves “telemedicine companies.” Instead, telemedicine is one tool within a comprehensive offering and experience. Noom is a weight loss management company, Ro is (in part) a digital pharmacy, and LetsGetChecked is an at-home lab testing company. In these examples—and across nearly every company in the virtual care space—some modality of telemedicine is combined with other tools (e.g., remote patient tracking, at-home diagnostics, dynamic content) to engage clinicians and patients, and ultimately drive toward outcomes.

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