Master Guide to Telehealth Statistics in 2020

The business of telehealth exploded in 2020. Here we take a look at the virtual care trends, telehealth investment statistics, telehealth adoption rates, telemedicine satisfaction, telehealth technology usage, and barriers to access that have shaped this unprecedented year.

The year 2020 has been transformative for telemedicine, with the COVID-19 pandemic fueling a rapid shift in how people access healthcare. Every area of the telehealth industry has been affected by this change: from physician adoption, to patient attitudes and satisfaction, to investment in telehealth platforms. To illustrate how the landscape has evolved this year, we collected a selection of the most powerful statistics showcasing telehealth trends in 2020.

Overall trends in virtual care

Telemedicine use increased sharply in the first weeks of the pandemic. While virtual visits have since declined, they are still up significantly over 2019 and are expected to remain at a much higher utilization than pre-pandemic rates.

  • Telehealth visits were up 154% in the last week of March 2020 compared with the same period the previous year. (CDC)

  • 46% of patients now say they use telehealth for some visits, compared to 11% in 2019. (McKinsey)

  • 48% of physicians now say they are treating patients via telemedicine. (Merritt Hawkins)

  • More than 20% of U.S. medical visits are expected to be conducted virtually this year. (Doximity)

  • Telehealth use by rural health centers increased during the pandemic, peaking at 54% in the last week of April. Use declined to 26.7% by October — still well above the 0.4% reported in 2019. (RCHN)

The business of telemedicine

Telemedicine is now big business, and investments surged in 2020 with stunning deal sizes, record-breaking investments, and companies outside of healthcare getting into the game.

  • The financial value of telemedicine visits is expected to reach at least $29.3 billion in 2020 and experts project that it will hit $106 billion by 2023. (Doximity)

  • Investors poured $9.4 billion into digital health startups through Q3 of 2020, with an estimated $12 billion in total investment by the end of the year. That’s a 46% investment increase over the previous record of $8.2 billion for 2018. (Rock Health)

  • Deals are getting larger, with an average deal size of $30.2 million in 2020, up from $19.7 million in 2019 — a whopping 53% increase. (Rock Health)

  • Non-healthcare companies, including big tech, are entering the virtual care space with Google investing $100 million in telehealth provider, Amwell (CNBC), and Microsoft launching a $40 million initiative AI for Health (Microsoft).

  • Up to $250 billion of the current U.S. healthcare spending could eventually shift to virtual. (McKinsey)

  • In the biggest telehealth business deal in history, Teladoc announced the acquisition of diabetes management provider, Livongo, for $18.5 billion. (Fierce Healthcare)

Patient telehealth adoption

Demand for virtual care soared in 2020 with the combination of stay-at-home orders, a desire for increased safety, and many providers moving visits online. Utilization has been especially significant among patients with chronic illnesses and Medicare recipients, due to growing adoption of remote monitoring technology and loosened telehealth regulations for Medicare. Good news for the industry, most patients say they will continue or would like to continue using telemedicine after COVID-19 and many would be willing to pay out of pocket for it.

  • The number of patients reporting at least one telehealth visit has increased by 57% since the start of the pandemic. Patients with chronic illnesses report a 77% increase in the use of telehealth. (Doximity)

  • Nearly half (43.5%) of Medicare beneficiaries’ primary care visits were provided via telehealth in April of 2020. Compare that to the 0.1% utilization before the public health emergency. (HHS.gov)

  • During the pandemic, most telehealth patients were adults between the ages of 18 and 49 (69%), and female (63%). (CDC)

  • 93% of patients say they would be likely to use telemedicine to manage prescriptions. (Doctor.com)

  • 83% of patients say they are likely to continue using telemedicine after COVID-19. (Doctor.com)

  • 28% of patients surveyed said they would like to access telehealth whenever possible, even if their insurance did not cover it. (Kyruus)

Patient satisfaction with virtual care

Surveys continue to report high levels of patient satisfaction with virtual care, underscoring the need for the industry’s transition to view patients as consumers and to deliver healthcare in manners that consumers are used to within other industries — like banking, shopping, and transportation. To stay competitive in the new healthcare market, businesses must prioritize which services can be delivered virtually for greater convenience, affordability, and access.

  • Levels of patient satisfaction for telehealth services are among the highest of all healthcare, insurance, and financial service industries. (J.D. Power)

  • 77% of patients surveyed said they were very or completely satisfied with the virtual care they received. The top three drivers of satisfaction were convenience, the safety of being seen at home, and speed of access. (Kyruus)

  • 75% of patients surveyed said they expect virtual care to be a standard part of their care moving forward, with 50% indicating they would switch providers to have virtual care visits on a regular basis. (Kyruus)

  • 74% of patients would use telemedicine to see a doctor with whom they already have a relationship, and 55% would use it to see a new doctor. (Doctor.com)

  • Telemedicine can improve patient compliance. 91% of patients say telemedicine would help with appointment or prescription compliance (Doctor.com); and a study of rheumatology patients showed that shifting to telehealth during the pandemic significantly reduced cancellations and no-shows (AJMC).

Clinician telehealth adoption

Physicians were forced to rapidly adopt telehealth practices due to COVID-19, but the accelerated adoption resulted in more favorable attitudes and comfortability with this healthcare delivery method than pre-pandemic.

  • The number of physicians reporting telehealth as a skill increased by 38% in 2020, up from a 20% increase each year between 2015 and 2018. (Doximity)

  • Female physicians are adopting telehealth at a faster rate than men. Women were 10% more likely than men to use telemedicine in their medical practice in 2019 and 24% more likely in 2020. (Doximity)

  • Providers are now seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before COVID. (McKinsey)

  • 57% of providers say they now view telemedicine more favorably than before the pandemic, and 64% say they are more comfortable using telemedicine. (McKinsey)

Speciality telemedicine use

Chronic diseases and mental/behavioral health are seeing especially strong adoption of telehealth services. Overall, specialty and primary care has outpaced urgent care in telehealth utilization, as low acuity and less urgent needs can be addressed in a virtual primary care setting.

  • By April of 2020, nearly all primary care physicians (97%) were using telemedicine to treat patients. (Bain & Company)

  • Outside of behavioral health, endocrinology and rheumatology were the top two specialties using telemedicine this year. (Doximity)

  • Among behavioral and mental health clinicians, 94% said they would like to continue offering these services virtually after the pandemic. (COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition)

  • Among patients, 48% said they would use telemedicine to seek care for allergy, ear, nose, or throat conditions, 45% for routine preventive care, and 45% for mental or behavioral health care or counseling. (Doctor.com)

  • 73% of physicians said they would like to continue offering chronic disease management visits to patients via telehealth after COVID-19. Other virtual services they planned to continue included medical management (64%), care coordination (60%), and preventive care (53%). (COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition)

Technology, access, and barriers to use

One of the greatest challenges to greater telehealth proliferation and healthcare at large, is increasing access to healthcare services despite existing healthcare inequities. The pandemic also emphasized the growing “digital divide” — a divide between individuals who have access to broadband in-home internet service and technology like laptops, and those who do not.

  • 52% of patients said they encountered at least one barrier that made it hard to access telehealth, and 35% said they experienced at least one technology issue. (J.D. Power)

  • The telehealth adoption rate for primary care visits is 28% higher in urban geographies than rural areas, and this disparity has widened since the early weeks of the pandemic, up from an 18% differential. (The Chartis Group / Kythera Labs)

  • Households with incomes of $50K or greater were 45% more likely to have broadband internet access than households with incomes less than $25K. Additionally, households with a Medicaid recipient or that included someone with a disability were also less likely to have broadband access. (State Health Access Data Assistance Center)

  • Nearly one-third of seniors aged 65 and older do not have access to an internet-connected device at home, including a computer, smartphone, or tablet. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

  • Around 45% of patients prefer to use their cell phones for telehealth visits, while 39% prefer laptops. (Doximity)

  • 69% of patients say easy-to-use technology would make them more likely to choose telemedicine services. Other factors include communication that telemedicine services are available (57%), online scheduling options (47%), immediate availability (47%), a secure communication platform that protects patient privacy (42%), and reading reviews of the service from other patients (42%). (Doctor.com)

  • Reimbursement challenges top the list of physician-cited barriers to maintaining telehealth after COVID-19, followed by technology challenges for patients, and liability concerns. Interestingly, clinicians view licensure as the lowest barrier to continuing telehealth care, although state license regulations pose immense challenges for telehealth brands scaling virtual care across state lines. (COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition)

  • In a survey of physicians, 69% said lack of patient access to technology would be a barrier for patient telehealth use. Other factors include lack of digital literacy by the patient (61%), lack of patient access to broadband or internet connection (58%), and patient preference for in-person visits (55%). (COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition)

  • Nearly two-thirds of physicians said lack of integration with EHRs would be a barrier to their own adoption of telehealth services. (COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition)

At Wheel, we believe the opportunities for virtual care are limitless and can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store.

If you’re a virtual care business, find out how your organization can launch, scale, and sustain a virtual care program that meets the needs of today’s patient-consumers with Wheel.

If you’re a clinician, find the best opportunities to work in virtual care with Wheel.

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