Feelings of isolation and loneliness, stress and uncertainty have affected people’s health during the pandemic, with 36% of the respondents to a PwC global survey stating that they had experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression. The most affected were the Z generation (42%) and Millennials (43%), according to the PwC report on Global Top Health Industry Issues 2021. Of the survey respondents, 44% said that they were interested in using virtual care solutions for resolving those issues.
“Given the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, we see that telemedicine has become over the last year not only a solution for limiting the spread of the virus but also for online psychotherapy consultations and sessions. Overall, our survey shows extremely high interest in virtual care, either through smartphones or video appointments, with 91% of those who have used video virtual care in a pandemic showing that they will continue to use it. However, the challenge for hospitals will be to choose the right specialties for virtual care – the management of chronic diseases and medical care for psychological issues seem to be the most suitable for telemedicine”, said Ruxandra Târlescu, Partner PwC Romania.
PwC’s Accelerating the Health Economy of Tomorrow 2020 report shows that the global economy is losing about USD 1 billion a year as a result of declining productivity caused by depression and anxiety.
Telemedicine, between regulation and business
Advances in technology and consumers’ desire for convenience are expected to drive the adoption of virtual care to a level that disrupts the traditional care delivery system. From a business perspective, the way systems treat virtual care reimbursement will be a key influencer.
“To maintain patient access to care during the pandemic, many countries adopted reimbursement policies that placed virtual care on par with in-person care and/or expanded the types of telemedicine services for which clinicians could be paid. Questions remain as to whether those payment changes will stay in place and whether reimbursement will vary based on the type of virtual care”, said Ruxandra Târlescu.
Meanwhile, investments in telemedicine alone hit USD 4.3 billion in 2020; a 139% jump from 2019. Optimism about virtual care’s future is driving M&A activity, including the largest industry deal in 2020 – US telemedicine provider Teladoc’s USD 18.5 billion acquisition of digital disease management company Livongo Health in October. Corporate funding for digital health companies worldwide doubled last year to USD 21.6 billion.
PwC interviewed health leaders and surveyed over 10,000 consumers in ten countries in January 2021 to obtain insights on people’s healthcare experience.