Jan Kimpen: In this year’s Future Health Index, we are seeing that some ‘forerunner’ countries have leapfrogged others and are seeing increasingly commonplace use of digital health technologies. Our research indicates that telehealth adoption is higher among healthcare professionals in countries with lower physician density – such as China, which has 1.81 physicians per 1,000 people (15-country average: 2.68) , but 89% of its healthcare professionals have used telehealth (15-country average: 61%).
I wonder if you both have seen this trend in your work and what, in countries where the physician density is higher, can be done to drive telehealth use?
Patricia Mechael: Most of my work is in low and middle-income countries with low physician density and we see huge adoption and use of telehealth. Where there are more doctors, distribution is still a challenge. Doctors may not be where the population needs them to be – telehealth can support more equitable and equal access. With aging populations, there’s a desire for the convenience of a tele consultation. Younger people want to engage with healthcare as they do with everything else, they’re the face time generation. So, if you can add telehealth to the mix, there’s a greater likelihood that people will seek out healthcare.
K. Elizabeth Hawk: At their inception, the likes of telehealth and AI began as productivity tools. But we’re seeing a new paradigm now, as we move from volume to value-based care. As we use these tools, we’re no longer focusing on the quantity of care, but focusing on the excellence of what we’re doing. In the US, we can drive telehealth use by showing its potential to elevate the level of care we’re able to provide to our patient population.