By John Etchberger, Ph.D.
Today, consumers and healthcare industry stakeholders have a desire to understand which aspects of virtual care should become a lasting element of patient-physician interactions.
Immunological diseases, which are often chronic and autoimmune in nature, received particular focus during the pandemic’s telehealth boom, due to COVID-19’s disproportional effect on immunocompromised patients. Teledermatology apps, which have been steadily rising in prevalence over the past five years, saw a sharp increase in use at the beginning of the pandemic as dermatologists virtually evaluated psoriasis, acne, and eczema patients to minimize COVID-19 exposure. For other specialists in the immunology space, including rheumatologists and gastroenterologists, telehealth became an effective tool to manage patients with chronic diseases, who require consistent follow-up.
Guidehouse undertook an analysis to understand the extent to which telehealth services in immunology persisted after the advent of COVID-19, and how, if at all, this varied across diseases.
According to Guidehouse’s analysis of four prevalent dermatological conditions, each stood out as consistently having the lowest average percentage of telehealth claims across all time points, compared to the indications in other therapeutic areas. This was an unexpected result, as dermatology is a therapeutic area that was predicted to have high levels of telehealth usage, due to advancements in teledermatology that allow greater accessibility of telehealth services for patients.
Despite the multitude of ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a sea change in the U.S. healthcare system, the Guidehouse analysis shows that telehealth within dermatology could not gain a substantial lasting foothold. Given the unique considerations of dermatological conditions, including the importance of visual examination and other in-person interactions, it appears as if the traditional model of healthcare will remain, at least for the time being.
However, as teledermatology apps continue to evolve and patient preference is increasingly taken into consideration during shared decision-making, the care landscape could once again shift toward the virtual world. Pharmaceutical companies developing in the dermatology space should be poised to be agile, should these dynamics change, and keep watch on the newest technologies and telehealth capabilities to remain competitive.
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