It’s always been hard to get a good read on how telehealth would ultimately fare in the urgent care industry. There have been proponents who argued that anything that increases access to medical care—which telehealth does, undeniably—would ultimately be good for the patient and any operator smart enough to seize the opportunity. Others have argued (also logically) that a virtual visit can lack some of the nuances that are so essential in making the right diagnosis and ordering the best treatment. This led to concerns that prescriptions, especially for antibiotics and pain medications, could be a little too easy to come by. The COVID-19 pandemic seemed to be the ultimate proving ground, as patients grew unnecessarily wary of presenting in person when they really needed to see a clinician. And remote care visits did jump—temporarily. More recently, data from FAIR Health showed that telehealth visits declined for 3 months in a row, from February through April of this year. The kicker may end up being that COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, with the Delta variant known to be more transmissible than its predecessors. Will this drive patients back inside and more eager to dial up rather than drive over to get care?

Is the Pandemic Telehealth Boom About to Go Bust?