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Healthcare Predictions 2020: Virtual Care Visits Will Soar To More Than 1 Billion In The US


The COVID-19 pandemic will forever change the face of healthcare, as a paradigm shift has occurred. Traditional barriers to adoption, such as awareness, cost, and regulation, are no longer valid in today’s reality. Demand for telehealth (virtual care) will soar well beyond the period of crisis. Forrester recognizes the shift in consumer demand and as such has revised its original predictions for virtual care visits, including both physical care and mental health support.

Forrester now predicts that virtual care visits will soar to more than 1 billion in 2020, including:

  • 900 million visits related to COVID-19. Many public health experts project the pandemic to continue into the summer months.
  • 200 million visits related to general care. This includes the 2020 flu season later in the year.
  • 80 million visits related to mental health needs. We anticipate a spike during the pandemic as citizens grapple at home with the stress and anxiety that come with a period of uncertainty.

The question is no longer about demand but rather providers’ ability to give adequate support for consumers seeking this model. Forrester found that only 24 percent of US healthcare organizations (HCOs) had an existing virtual care program as of January 2020. Even without barriers like implementation cost and lack of reimbursement, HCOs can only shift so many of their providers to focus on virtual care during the pandemic, as acute cases are expected to increase and peak in late April. We expect time and resource constraints to create a supply crisis for virtual care during the pandemic.

Additional technologies, such as self-triage and screening tools, will help mitigate the demand surge and ensure that the most critical cases get the necessary care. Other capabilities such as remote monitoring and secure messaging will enable others to continue to care for themselves at home and manage their care safely with open communication.

HCOs investing in virtual care and self-triage will continue to reap the rewards through the end of 2020 and beyond as consumers seek a virtual-care-first model for everything from chronic care management to acute illness to ongoing mental health support needs.

© 2020, Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Forrester is a trademark of Forrester Research, Inc.

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