Vaccines could soon make COVID-19 a thing of the past, but the pandemic will continue to impact the way consumers make decisions -- especially regarding their own healthcare — for years to come.
Coronavirus lockdowns across the country led to a “surge in the use of digital technologies” in 2020. Internet service use rose from 40% to 100%, compared to pre-lockdown levels. With more people working from home, conferencing services including Zoom also saw an uptick is usage. That’s not to mention the thousands of people who turned to food delivery apps when going to a restaurant or grocery store was increasingly difficult.
Just as consumers turned to digital devices for everyday activities, they also relied on technology to cover their healthcare needs. It’s safe to say telemedicine is one COVID-19 trend that is likely to stick around in the New Year, and beyond.
Recent survey data from HealthInsurance.com shows that there was a 422% increase in the use of telemedicine during the pandemic. That’s not surprising, with countless patients opting to see a physician online rather than risking an in-person doctor visit. 47% of respondents also reported that they had used telemedicine during the pandemic, compared to just 9% who reported using it in March. Seniors especially were taking advantage of telemedicine options; 47% of respondents aged 55-64 and 42% of those over the age of 65 reported taking advantage of telemedicine.
As more people get vaccinated in the coming months, coronavirus precautions will hopefully relax. Still, thousands of patients have already discovered the ease of using telemedicine to solve a minor health concern or keep up with their regular checkups. It’s unlikely consumers will want to give up the convenience of virtual doctor visits, even after the pandemic is over.
In fact, almost half of survey respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way they use healthcare overall. 38% even said they used the most recent open enrollment period to adjust their health insurance plans. There are plenty of coronavirus concerns that could make consumers feel the need to change their coverage before the New Year.
If money is tight for some families because of COVID-19 shutdowns, they may have opted for a lower deductible plan. This way, they won’t be stuck with a significant deductible payment before their insurance kicks in at the beginning of the year. This could be the case for the 54% of respondents who reported that they did not have enough money saved to cover the expected cost of a hospital visit. Others may have opted for a plan that offers more comprehensive coverage in case they contract the virus and require a longer hospital stay.
These trends will likely continue over the next few years. After all, 56% of respondents do not think they’ll stop worrying about the coronavirus pandemic even after the vaccine is implemented across the country. 63% of women — who make roughly 80% of healthcare decisions in their family — reported that they will not stop worrying about COVID-19 just because there are effective vaccines. That’s in addition to the more than half of respondents who said they believe it will take at least one full year before society returns to “normal,” including 26% of people who expect it to take two years or more.
Even if we’re able to put COVID-19 to bed in 2021, it’s clear uncertainty and fear regarding the virus will continue to impact consumers’ decision making for some time. Fortunately, increased access to telemedicine is one innovation that’s worth keeping around.
Jan Dubauskas is a healthcare expert, enthusiastic insurance pro, attorney and mom serving as Vice President of healthinsurance.com.
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