Virtual Care 2023 — Year in Review

Siel Ju
December 21, 2023
January 17, 2024

The past year brought many transformative shifts to the world of virtual care, especially thanks to the increased funding at both the federal and state levels and within individual health systems. We saw major expansions in virtual care and remote patient monitoring (RPM) programs as exciting new technologies made remote care more effective and accessible. Plus, new large-scale studies affirmed the effectiveness of virtual care. 

Let’s dive into the four key changes that defined virtual care in 2023.

1. The rise of AI in virtual health

In 2023, AI came to play a revolutionary role in virtual healthcare with the introduction of AI-powered virtual assistants, chatbots, and associated tools. Following the debut of ChatGPT in late 2022, an increasing number of healthcare organizations began exploring the possibilities of generative AI and introducing tools like Oracle’s Clinical Digital Assistant and Cedars-Sinai Connect to the market. Already, these virtual assistants have proven instrumental by automating various healthcare tasks, providing round-the-clock support, offering personalized health advice, and encouraging patients to actively engage in their healthcare journey.

AI has also enhanced and expanded RPM programs through more robust virtual care platforms and improved remote monitoring devices. This enables healthcare providers to more effectively track patient vitals and swiftly identify potential complications, even from a distance. 

However, the AI space also faced some challenges in 2023. After a strong initial surge in digital health funding during the coronavirus pandemic, medtech companies faced a steep drop in sector funding in 2022. That in large part led to the closures of once-lauded companies like Avail Medsystems, Babylon Health, and Olive AI

Despite this slowdown, AI continues to be the most invested technology theme in the medical devices sector, securing over $100 billion in funding in 2023. All in all, AI has indisputably introduced efficiency, accessibility, and personalization to healthcare, with the promise of making even greater contributions in the years to come.

2. A surge in virtual care investments

This year also marked renewed interest and investment in virtual care, with a particular focus on RPM. The initial peak in interest happened at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when healthcare systems made a quick and dramatic shift towards virtual platforms and pandemic-specific government funding was channeled toward this end. However, when the coronavirus public health emergency (PHE) declaration ended in May 2023, many feared the funding stream would also come to a halt. This led to a temporary pause in the expansion of virtual care, with purchasing decisions being put on hold across the board.

However, Congress extended many telehealth benefits provided to Medicare beneficiaries through December 31, 2024. Now, with the dust settling, healthcare systems and companies have resumed and expanded investment in virtual care and RPM programs. A 2023 survey of healthcare executives found healthcare systems are set to increase investments in technology such as AI and RPM to tackle workforce challenges and enhance the efficiency of clinical care pathways.

3. Virtual care reimbursement shifts

Payers expanded reimbursement for virtual care in 2023, encouraging healthcare providers to adopt and integrate virtual care technologies into their practices. Under the new rules, Medicare now reimburses telehealth services provided at home at a higher, non-facility rate. In addition, CMS rules now ensure better reimbursement for RPM and remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) services.

At the state level, Medicaid programs also embraced telehealth. Payment parity laws have been enacted in 24 states, mandating that telehealth services be reimbursed at the same rate as in-person services to ensure healthcare providers are fairly compensated for their virtual care services. In addition, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and other states made investments in telehealth offerings

4. Virtual care showed positive clinical outcomes: 

Notable 2023 studies showed virtual care can be just as effective as in-person care. Research published in Healthcare Quarterly from McMaster University, for example, affirmed that virtual care is not only safe for medical appointments but is used appropriately and effectively by both patients and physicians, resulting in fewer adverse outcomes, hospitalizations, visits to intensive care units, and overall healthcare visits. Remote care also allowed healthcare providers to better serve rural and difficult-to-reach communities.

Similar findings emerged in virtual mental healthcare. A study published in Nature Mental Health found online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for anxiety and depression. Virtual care could also be delivered at a lower cost and enable people to access treatment faster, enhancing their quality of life and reducing the need for additional medical care. These and other studies helped to dispel concerns about the quality of virtual care.

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In the coming years, virtual care is poised to play an even more significant role in transforming healthcare. It not only provides a convenient, accessible, and effective alternative to traditional in-person care but also empowers healthcare providers to streamline processes, offer personalized care, and remotely monitor patient health. As technology continues to advance, virtual care is on track to become the primary mode of healthcare delivery for a growing number of patients.

Curious to explore the possibilities that lie ahead for your healthcare organization? Contact Veta Health to learn more about our AI-enabled, human-directed solutions and future-proof your virtual care.

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