Bupa says Australians embraced digital healthcare during COVID-19 lockdowns and digital healthcare is expected to be part of the 'new normal'.
Bupa says telehealth claims jumped to almost 4,000 in the first month it paid for services before peaking in May 2020.
According to Emily Amos, Bupa Health Insurance managing director, "The pandemic forced us to look differently at how we receive and deliver healthcare and adapt quickly to the changing situation. We estimate that it sped up digital adoption in healthcare by at least a decade both in Australia and around the globe.
“As we’re seeing in Victoria at the moment, thanks to the pace of adoption last year, the healthcare industry will be able to quickly move back to prioritising telehealth and other digital solutions while they’re unable to see some patients in person.”
Bupa has released a whitepaper - How the pandemic helped healthcare go digital - that shows the impact COVID-19 has had on the digitalisation of healthcare and the outlook for telehealth services in the future.
Ms Amos welcomed the federal government’s extension of telehealth MBS funding until December 2021 and encouraged the government to consider permanent support for the services.
“It’s clear that Australians see value in receiving some of their healthcare delivered digitally, and as recent events have shown, it’s critical that providers have the flexibility to be able to scale up their digital offerings as we continue to adapt to a state of COVID-normal,” said Ms Amos.
“While telehealth claims have seen a drop since the peak of lockdowns in 2020, both our data and MBS data shows there is still a very strong market for healthcare such as psychology, physiotherapy and dietetics to be delivered virtually. We expect telehealth will continue to play an important role in how healthcare is delivered, not just within the current situation but well into the future.”
Bupa said in the 12 months since telehealth was introduced, psychology was the most common overall claim among its customers, with physiotherapy the most common for its customers aged 50 and over. Women made more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of the total claims.
“We saw physio services take off as an early adopter of telehealth in April, but as the pandemic rolled on and the mental health impacts began to gain more attention, psychology quickly became the most common claim.
“The use of telehealth varied widely by the age, location and demographics of our customers. This showed that it really is an individual choice for a patient and their practitioner to determine what suits their own healthcare needs best rather than a one-size-fits-all,” said Ms Amos.