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Master’s in Physician Assistant: Why Telemedicine is Here to Stay
Physician assistants are encountering a changing healthcare landscape that will be defined, in part, by a major shift in how care is provided.
Traditionally, seeing a doctor, physician’s assistant or other provider entailed actually going to an appointment. But with the rise of telemedicine, (also called virtual care), a growing number of visits to healthcare providers are now happening virtually, with a “visit” happening remotely, via phone or over a video platform. Though telemedicine will never fully take the place of in-person care, it can supplement it, nonetheless. Many in-person visits can be replaced with virtual visits that do not require the patient to visit the care provider in person.
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated the adoption of telemedicine. According to McKinsey & Company, the use of telehealth, the technology and services used to deliver telemedicine, is 38 times higher than it was before the pandemic. In the early months of the pandemic, when many clinics were closed, its use was even higher.
Trends Leading to a Rise in Telemedicine
But while the pandemic enabled telemedicine to gain traction, multiple trends led to the rise of telemedicine long before the pandemic made it an increasingly common—and in many cases the only—alternative to in-person office visits. Among these trends:
- Telemedicine increases access to care. While visiting a healthcare provider can be inconvenient, those living in remote or rural areas can find it especially difficult or even prohibitive to go to an in-person appointment. Telemedicine makes care available to these individuals where they live and without the need to travel long distances to be seen by a medical professional.
- Growth in provider investment in telehealth. Telemedicine isn’t new. Teladoc, the leading telehealth provider, was founded in 2002. And even before the pandemic, in the years 2015-17, telemedicine was experiencing robust growth. According to the American Hospital Association, 76 percent of hospitals had already implemented a telehealth system by 2017. While investment in the telehealth space ballooned during the pandemic, it still totaled $7.7 billion in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
- Increased patient and provider acceptance of telemedicine. During the pandemic, and even before, people were becoming more comfortable communicating over platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. However, with the option of an in-person appointment off the table when the pandemic hit, many patients had their first exposure to telemedicine and their reaction was largely favorable. The most common application of telemedicine, even during the pandemic, was for appointments with a psychologist or psychiatrist.
A McKinsey & Company survey found that 40 percent of respondents said they believe they would continue to use telehealth going forward—a significant jump from 11 percent prior to the pandemic. In the same survey, most healthcare providers also viewed telemedicine favorably: 58 percent of physicians view telehealth more favorably now than they did before the pandemic, and 57 percent said they would prefer to continue offering virtual care.
Indeed, while the future of healthcare won’t be entirely digital, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that telemedicine, and the delivery of virtual care will be a permanent fixture in the provider/patient relationship.
Get prepared for your career in healthcare with a Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant from Carlow University. The program provides a holistic and supportive academic environment that provides transformational, clinical educational opportunities in Pittsburgh and beyond, and prepares students to take the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE) and pursue a versatile and in-demand career as a physician assistant.