Rising Demand for Virtual Health Care

Written by Jennifer Clark
Posted April 20, 2022

The era of telehealth or telemedicine is just beginning. Before the coronavirus pandemic, my health care plan offered telehealth options, but I think I might have used it only once or twice. It was a convenient option for when I needed to consult with a medical professional and didn't feel like going to a doctor's office. However, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, telehealth became the best way to interact with medical professionals without having to visit hospitals that were already overwhelmed with coronavirus cases.

Early into the pandemic, a lot of people were afraid to leave their homes — let alone go to a hospital to see a doctor — because they were afraid of contracting the virus. The virus was still in its early phases, so health experts were still studying it, how it affected the population, and who could be the most at risk. It was a difficult time, but people's health conditions weren't put on hold just because this virus took hold of the world. People still needed to get medical care and consult with doctors about what had been ailing them.

Hospitals faced staff shortages and employee burnout. Burnout is a syndrome caused by considerable stress in the workplace, which can often be caused by staff shortages and/or increased workload for existing staff. Healthcare workers have been working nonstop even throughout the pandemic. The pandemic pushed medical professionals to the brink and kept pushing them.

A survey of 1,327 healthcare workers conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post during the pandemic found that 55% of them felt symptoms of burnout. Of those workers, 62% said burnout symptoms had an impact on their mental health. Even before the pandemic, healthcare workers were feeling burnout. A pre-pandemic study indicated that 44% of physicians already felt burnout because of their long shifts, the large amount of administrative work, and dealing with electronic medical records.

And if burnout isn’t alleviated, it can start to cost hospitals and patients. Physician burnout can increase the chance of errors and lead to hospitals having to pay out millions of dollars in lawsuit costs. Not to mention the harm that can be caused to patients who are victims of medical burnout. Virtual health care or telehealth offers to assist patients in the comfort of their homes and they don’t have to come into hospitals unless it’s totally necessary.

According to UnitedHealthcare’s CMO, Donna O’Shea, M.D.:

While the COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented spike in the number of virtual care visits, we are seeing that telehealth has staying power even as many people have returned to in-person appointments. 

Virtual care visits in 2021 by UnitedHealthcare members approximately matched the total for 2020, with continued significant use of telehealth so far in 2022. 

Virtual care can help with providing better care to the general population as well. I know I’m not the only one who has put off a visit to the doctor because I couldn’t find the time to get off of work or the availability of appointments was limited. Whatever the reason was… there was a reason, and that made me less proactive about my health.

Another reason why people tend to put off consulting with their doctor is that they might be embarrassed about the reason for their appointment. That might be an issue having to do with sex, hair loss, dermatology, fertility, etc. These are sensitive topics and can intimidate people and even cause them to put off making an appointment or learning more about their options.

A direct-to-consumer telehealth company called Hims & Hers Health (NYSE: HIMS) has gained traction within the healthcare industry over the last few years because of its ability to assist people needing help with these sensitive health topics and issues. Hims & Hers Health has been able to develop its retail channels and grow into new product categories that have influenced the brand’s appeal and increased its growth as a company. 

Over the past several quarters, the company has been developing its focus in new categories like mental health, skincare, and primary care. All categories have become popular over the past few years. Hims & Hers Health launched a mobile app that helps its consumers seek consultations. It has also launched new products like new prescription treatments for women’s dermatology, mental wellness supplements, and more skincare products. 

The company’s management believes it has plenty of room to expand and grow. It estimates that the primary care, anxiety, depression, and dermatology markets alone are worth more than $300 billion. The company has managed to create many important and influential partnerships with retail outlets like Target, Walgreens, The Vitamin Shoppe, CVS, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, GNC, and Walmart. This allows for recurring consumers to buy Hims & Hers Health products at retail locations if they need their products as soon as possible. 

However, it hasn’t been the easiest ride for this company, especially in the past few months, since the stock market is unable to make its mind up about the company. Hims & Hers Health doesn’t just fit into one category. It sells products, but it’s also a telehealth company — and that kind of confuses the stock market. What you should pay attention to is whether the company able to continue its growth when it comes to revenue and its product offerings. If the company could offer some type of proprietary product, that would make it more unique and give it a leg up against its competitors.

With all that being said, the virtual health and wellness market is set to soar. People are more than ever concerned with their well-being and focused on taking care of themselves.

Until next time,

Jennifer Clark
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