The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Future of Telemedicine

image of The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Future of Telemedicine

The use of telemedicine was quite limited in most OECD countries before the COVID-19 pandemic, held back by regulatory barriers and hesitancy from patients and providers. In early 2020, as COVID-19 massively disrupted in-person care, governments moved quickly to promote the use of telemedicine. The number of teleconsultations skyrocketed, playing a vital role in maintaining access to care, but only partly offsetting reductions in in-person care. This report provides an overview of the use of telemedicine in OECD countries, describing how governments scaled up remote care during the pandemic and exploring the impact that this massive shift to remote care has had on health care system performance. Telemedicine may be here to stay, but questions remain concerning how to regulate its use, how to pay for it, how to integrate it with in-person care, and how to make sure that it constitutes good value for money for all. This report puts forth priorities for policy makers to inform the discussion and to promote the best use of remote care services in the future.


Executive summary

In early 2020, as countries grappled with the enormous uncertainty surrounding the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) and the disease it caused, COVID‑19, normal life came to a halt. With governments focused on preventing and treating COVID‑19, and people drastically altering their behaviour to limit infection, many in-person health services were postponed or simply cancelled, causing massive disruptions in the delivery of essential health care services, with consequences that persist today.

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