A recent study in JAMA indicates that telemedicine is growing as a form of medical care delivery, but adoption still remains low. Telemedicine visits are concentrated in primary care (136,366 visits in 2017) and telemental health (57,095 visits in 2017) but very low for other specialties. Telemedicine users are predominantly younger and live in urban areas. The growth of telemental health seems to be related to the shortage of accessible mental health providers whereas the uptick in primary care visits via telehealth seems driven by patients seeking greater convenience.
Telemedicine is also changing the medical profession. Once relegated to the fringe, telemedicine is rapidly becoming an acceptable care option for physicians who also view it as a way to avoid burnout. Startups such as Doctors on Demand - funded by Google Ventures, Goldman Sachs and Andreessen Horowitz - has succeed in getting coverage from major insurers and self-insured large employers. Telemedicine is further being driven by “parity” laws, which mandate coverage and reimbursement for telemedicine in 32 states. The only real question is why telemedicine has been so slow to take off.