Digital Health CEO Reveals Top Telehealth Trends for 2024
As we enter into Q4 and begin setting goals for next year, health executives are looking to 2024 and anticipating what it might bring. Open Loop CEO and Co-founder, Dr. Jon Lensing, gives us his take on evolving virtual care market with the trends and innovations he’s expecting to see in the coming months. Get out your notepad, notes app or the writing canvas of your choice and add these to your own virtual health watch list for the new year!
Investor market has come down, but investors are still interested
The telehealth investing boom caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is slowing down, and Dr. Lensing says we’ll continue to see it go down for the next 12 months. Despite that, private investors are still throwing more money at the industry than ever, it’s just concentrated into a few key areas.
“As far as investors, many of them are now investing in long-term, sticky companies that are focused on chronic conditions with a really integrated clinical model into the patient’s life. So it has to be very high-touch and has a good data platform that flows back to weekly meetings or insights in order to course correct,” said Dr. Lensing. “These are the companies I’m seeing investors pour money into.”
Healthcare AI is another area where Dr. Lensing is seeing more investor interest. This includes using AI to streamline patient intake, revenue cycle management (RCM), care navigation and patient support through language learning chatbots.
Increased automation for clinical intakes and patient support
Healthcare executives should expect to see AI and automation creep into their internal operations and patient support services if it hasn’t already.
“[We will see] the automation of clinical intakes like taking the patient’s demographic information, then routing them to the correct clinician given the outcomes they’re looking for. Using large language models in healthcare outcomes will be important for a lot of the feeding or teaching of AI…that’s an area we will be focused on here shortly.”
Advanced language learning technology can make it easier for healthcare professionals to assess what health resources a patient requires by triaging prior to the scheduled visit. Chatbot assistants can also collect patient demographics and health history real-time, then offer recommendations, with clinical oversight, on next steps to take for that patient in their care journey.
The use of AI in RCM is another area of innovation healthcare leaders should pay attention to. Smart technology can help streamline your RCM process by automating manual administrative tasks, identify reimbursement patterns or trends, increase cash-flow and lower abandonment claims.
GLP-1 weight loss programs powered by telehealth
If you’ve been paying attention in 2023, then you witnessed the explosion that GLP-1 medications made in the weight loss industry. Prescribing GLP-1 agonist medications for weight loss has opened the door to addressing the obesity crisis facing the United States today. In fact, about 39.6% of the U.S. population are obese according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). However, it’s also been met with considerable criticism due to GLP-1’s side effects and its marketing by some organizations as a “miracle weight loss pill” (something we’ve heard before).
Despite this, their ability to be administered from home with periodic clinical intervention has made them a great candidate for synchronous telehealth models. Dr. Lensing predicts that most telehealth companies will offer some form of GLP-1 treatment virtually in 2024.
“There’s a lot of talk that these medications will get FDA approval specifically for obesity, so we can use it on-label for medical weight loss. So, I think we’re going to see an exponential growth in GLP-1 offerings throughout the duration of 2024,” said Dr. Lensing.
Larger emphasis on consumer-centric healthcare models
Dr. Lensing sees the consumer-centric healthcare business model only growing as we head into 2024.
“RedBox Rx is doing it, other retailers like Costco, Publix and Hyvee are all entering into what I call consumer-centric healthcare models. So, direct to the patient, it’s very convenient, fast, affordable and accessible.”
With this model, patients can be tested, treated and prescribed medication from a single location like a local pharmacy. This can be done by performing an initial telehealth visit to triage and collect symptom information or an asynchronous intake to collect demographics and health history. That information can then be used to assign patients to the right provider and get the treatment recommendation they need for their condition.
Retailers will also continue to tap into their patient base and offer treatments based on the medications or services patients have already taken or utilized through them. For example, say you have a large population of patients taking SSRIs for depression and anxiety. By spinning up mental health therapy services, you can tap into those patients and offer them a more holistic approach to treating their mental condition.
Prescription of controlled substances is an area to watch
The prescription of controlled substances via telehealth has been a controversial topic since the virtual care boom during COVID-19. As more policies unfold regarding telehealth’s prescriptive authority around these substances, Dr. Lensing believes this will be an interesting area to watch.
“There has been a lot of good work that’s been going on within hormone optimization and men’s wellness. That came under pressure and scrutiny because the DEA was going to roll back the ability to prescribe controlled substances via telehealth without an in-person visit.”
However, there has been quite a bit of lobbying and introduction of policies in favor of telehealth prescribing that makes this an especially interesting case. Dr. Lensing encourages health leaders to pay close attention and keep it top of mind going into 2024. If the prescriptive flexibility becomes permanent, it can open up the doors to more affordable treatment offerings and options for patients.
The RPM and chronic care management spaces will see continued growth
This is an area that the industry has seen growth in and will continue to see trend up well into the years ahead. With the baby boomer population experiencing increased medical needs as they age up, along with the trend of aging-in-place, RPM and chronic care management are going to be essential to effective at-home care.
“The RPM and CCM space is only going to grow…This shift from the hospital to home, we kind of call it hospital-at-home now, there are a lot of dollars flowing into that. Medicare is very big on the telehealth market with this hospital-at-home type of approach. It’s highly effective and it has been shown medically that a patient’s health outcomes are better when they’re at home than at a hospital,” said Dr. Lensing.
As we approach 2024, these trends and innovations in telehealth are set to reshape the way we think about virtual care. From investor interests to the use of AI, from GLP-1 weight loss programs to consumer-centric healthcare models, and from the prescription of controlled substances to the growth of RPM and chronic care management, the future of telehealth is bright and full of opportunities. Stay informed and prepared as these trends continue to revolutionize the healthcare industry.