Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
Healthcare Systems and Services Practice

            Telehealth: A quarter-​
            trillion-dollar post-
            COVID-19 reality?
            Strong continued uptake, favorable consumer perception, and
            ­tangible investment into this space are all contributing to the
             ­continued growth of telehealth in 2021. New analysis indicates
              ­telehealth use has increased 38X from the pre-COVID-19 baseline.

            Oleg Bestsennyy, Greg Gilbert, Alex Harris, and Jennifer Rost

                                                                            © Morsa Images/Getty Images

July 2021
Update: July 9, 2021                                              improved since the pre-COVID-19
                                                                  era. Perceptions and usage have
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, tele-
                                                                  dropped slightly since the peak in
health usage surged as consumers and
                                                                  spring 2020. Some barriers—such as
providers sought ways to safely access
                                                                  perceptions of technology security—
and deliver healthcare. In April 2020,
                                                                  remain to be addressed to sustain
overall telehealth utilization for office
                                                                  ­consumer and provider virtual health
­visits and outpatient care was 78 times
                                                                   adoption, and models are likely to
 higher than in February 2020 (Exhibit 1).
                                                                   evolve to optimize hybrid virtual and
This step-change, borne out of necessity,                          in-person care delivery.
was enabled by these factors: 1) increas­ed
                                                               — Some regulatory changes that facili-
consumer willingness to use telehealth,
                                                                 tated expanded use of telehealth have
2) increased provider willingness to use
                                                                 been made permanent, for example,
telehealth, 3) regulatory changes ena-
                                                                 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid
bling greater access and reimbursement.
                                                                 Services’ expansion of reimbursable
During the tragedy of the pandemic,
                                                                 telehealth codes for the 2021 physician
­telehealth offered a bridge to care, and
                                                                 fee schedule. But uncertainty still exists
 now offers a chance to reinvent virtual
                                                                 as to the fate of other services that may
 and hybrid virtual/in-person care models,
                                                                 lose their waiver status when the public
 with a goal of improved healthcare access,
                                                                 health emergency ends.
 outcomes, and affordability.
                                                               — Investment in virtual care and digital
A year ago, we estimated that up to $250
                                                                 health more broadly has skyrocketed,
billion of US healthcare spend could po-
                                                                 fueling further innovation, with 3X the
tentially be shifted to virtual or virtually
                                                                 level of venture capitalist digital health
enabled care. Approaching this potential
                                                                 investment in 2020 than it had in 2017.4
level of virtual health is not a foregone
conclusion. It would likely require sus-                       — Virtual healthcare models and busi-
tained consumer and clinician adoption                           ness models are evolving and prolifer-
and accelerated redesign of care path-                           ating, moving from purely “virtual urgent
ways to incorporate virtual modalities.                          care” to a range of services enabling
As of July 2021, we step back to review                          longitudinal virtual care, integration of
the progress of telehealth since the initial                     telehealth with other virtual health solu-
COVID-19 spike and to assess implica-                            tions, and hybrid virtual/in-person care
tions for telehealth and virtual health1                         models, with the potential to improve
                                                                 consumer experience/convenience,
more broadly going forward. Our findings
                                                                 ­access, outcomes, and affordability.
include the following insights:
— Telehealth utilization has stabilized                        Telehealth uptake
  at levels 38X higher than before the
                                                               Since the initial spike in April 2020, tele-
  pandemic. After an initial spike to
                                                               health adoption overall has approached up
  more than 32 percent of office and
                                                               to 17 percent of all outpatient/office visit
  outpatient visits occurring via tele-
                                                               claims with evaluation and management
  health in April 2020, utilization levels
                                                               (E&M) services. This utilization has been
  have largely stabilized, ranging from
                                                               ­relatively stable since June 2020.
  13 to 17 percent across all specialties.2
  This utilization reflects more than                          We are also seeing a differential uptake
  ­two-thirds of what we anticipated as                        of telehealth depending on specialty,
   visits that could be virtualized.3                          with the highest penetration in psychia-
                                                               try (50 percent) and substance use treat-
— Similarly, consumer and provider
                                                               ment (30 percent) (Exhibit 2).
  attitudes toward telehealth have

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                  1
Web 2021
Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
Exhibit   1
Exhibit 1 of 4

Growth in telehealth usage peaked during April 2020 but has since stabilized.
Telehealth claims volumes, compared to pre-Covid-19 levels (February 2020 = 1)¹

        Jan        Feb        Mar        Apr        May        Jun        July       Aug       Sept        Oct        Nov        Dec        Jan         Feb
                                                                   2020                                                                          2021

¹ Includes cardiology, dental/oral, dermatology, endocrinology, ENT medicine, gastroenterology, general medicine, general surgery, gynecology, hematology,
  infectious diseases, neonatal, nephrology, neurological medicine, neurosurgery, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, poisoning/drug tox./comp. of TX,
  psychiatry, pulmonary medicine, rheumatology, substance use disorder treatment, urology. Also includes only evaluation and management visits; excludes
  emergency department, hospital inpatient, and physiatry inpatient claims; excludes certain low-volume specialties.
Source: Compile database; McKinsey analysis

Web 2021
Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
Exhibit   2
Exhibit 2 of 4

Substantial variation exists in share of telehealth claims across specialities.
Share of telehealth of outpatient and office visit claims by specialty (February 2021¹), %

  Psychiatry          Substance Endocrinology                  Rheuma-           Gastroenter-        Neurological ENT medicine                 Pulmonary
                     use disorder                               tology              ology             medicine                                  medicine

  Infectious         Hematology            General           Dermatology            Urology             Oncology          Nephrology           Cardiology
   diseases                                medicine

 Dental/oral         Gynecology           Poisoning/        Neurosurgery            General           Orthopedic Ophthalmology
                                           drug tox                                 surgery            surgery

¹ Includes only evaluation and management claims; excludes emergency department, hospital inpatient, and physiatry inpatient claims; excludes certain
  low-volume specialties.
² Also includes addiction medicine and addiction treatment.
Source: Compile database; “Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?” May 2020,; McKinsey analysis

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                                  2
Consumer and provider                                                             Moreover, our research shows between
perceptions of telehealth                                                         40 and 60 percent of consumers express
                                                                                  interest in a set of broader virtual health
   Our consumer research5 shows that
                                                                                  solutions, such as a “digital front door”
­consumers continue to view telehealth as
                                                                                  or lower-cost virtual-first health plan.6
 an important modality for their future care
                                                                                ­However, a gap has historically existed
 needs, but—as expected—this view varies
                                                                                 between consumers’ expressed interest
 widely depending on the type of care.
                                                                                 in digital health solutions and actual
 ­Overall, consumer perception tracks close-
                                                                                 ­usage. Continuing to focus on creating
  ly to what we believe is p
                           ­ ossible ­telehealth
                                                                                  a seamless consumer interface, breaking
  ­uptake by various specialties (Exhibit 3).
                                                                                  down silos in care provision (across virtual
Around 40 percent of surveyed consu­mers                                          and in-person) with improved data inte-
stated that they believe they will c­ ontinue                                     gration and i­nsights, and proactive con-
to use telehealth going forward—​up from                                          sumer engagement will all be important
11 percent of consumers using telehealth                                          to sustaining and growing consumer use
prior to COVID-19.                                                                of virtual health as the pandemic wanes.

Web 2021
Telehealth:3A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
Exhibit 3 of 4

Most recent care received utilized telemedicine, with some moderate
increases since January.

Modality of most recent appointment by setting, current as of June 14, 2021
Respondents who reported receiving care in the specified setting (sample size varies by row),¹ %

     Telephone          Telemedicine          In-person
Visits to a specialist
 4           12                                                                     84                                                                 626
Visits to an urgent care center
  5                16                                                                  79                                                              324
Visits to a health clinic at a pharmacy or retail store
      7                  23                                                                    71                                                      287
Visit with a pediatrician for my child
     6                   23                                                                    70                                                      207
Visit with a gynecologist for non-pregnancy or non-maternity care
  4           13                                                                    83                                                                 224
Non-annual/routine visits with a primary care physician (eg, GP, FP, internist)²
      8                 16                                                                75                                                           679
Annual wellness visits with a primary care physician (eg, GP, FP, internist)
  5              12                                                                 83                                                                 815
Routine visits with a primary care physician (eg, GP, FP, internist)
  5                17                                                                    78                                                            788
Visits to a psychologist or psychiatrist
                 23                                          40                                                       37                               309

APPT1. For each of the following types of care below, indicate whether your most recent appointment was either at an in-person appointment, or an online/video
  visit with a physician (eg, Doctor on Demand, Skype, FaceTime); also called telemedicine, or a telephone (voice call) appointment.
¹ Figures may not sum to 100%, because of rounding.
² FP, family physician; GP, general practitioner.
Source: McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey 1/15/2021, 6/14/2021

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                                 3
Web 2021
Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?
Exhibit   4
Exhibit 4 of 4

Investment in digital health and the revenues of telehealth players almost
doubled compared to 2019.

Total venture funding for digital health companies, by year                                                                  Total annual revenues
$ billion                                                                                                                    $ billion

     2017        2018        2019         2020                                                                                         +83%
           Venture funding in 2020
           was significantly higher
           than in recent years, in both
           invested capital and deals.
                                                                                                        7.7B                                       5.5

      Q1                             Q2                             Q3                              Q4                     2019/2020 2020/2021

¹ p.a., per annum.
Source: Adriana Krasniansky et al., “H1 2021 Digital Health Funding: Another Blockbuster Year…In Six Months,” Rock Health, July 2021,;
McKinsey virtual health vendor database

On the provider side, 58 percent of phy­                                         However, other restrictions on telehealth
sicians continue to view telehealth more                                         may return to pre-COVID-19 normal when
­favorably now than they did b  ­ efore ­COVID-​                                 the public health emergency expires. For
 19, though perceptions have come down                                           example, there were several dozen addi-
 slightly since September 2020 (64 percent                                       tional CPT codes that CMS allowed tele-
 of physicians). As of April 2021, 84 percent                                    health coverage for on a temporary basis
 of physicians were o ­ ffering virtual visits and                               in the 2021 physician fee schedule.9 In
 57 percent would prefer to con­tinue offer-                                    ­addition, a waiver for public health emer-
 ing virtual care. However, 54 percent would                                     gency allowed telehealth to be provided
 not offer virtual care at a 15 percent dis-                                     for Medicare b­ eneficiaries outside of rural
 count to in-person care.7 Most health sys-                                      areas and from home rather than from a
tems are closely monitoring reimbursement.                                       provider’s office. The future of these pro-
Those in bed c­ apacity-constrained environ­                                     visions once the public health emergency
ments and value-based care arrangements                                          ends is not yet clear.
are looking to understand whether there is
scalable volume ­decanting or cost savings                                      Investor activity
potential at equivalent quality.
                                                                                Investment in virtual health continues to
                                                                                accelerate. Per Rock Health’s H1 2021
Regulatory changes                                                              digital health funding report10 the total
Some regulatory changes that enabled                                            venture capital investment into the digi-
greater telehealth access during C
                                 ­ OVID-19                                      tal health space in the first half of 2021
have been made permanent. For example,                                          totaled $14.7 billion, which is more than
CMS allowed telehealth coverage for a                                           all of the investment in 2020 ($14.6
number of current pro­cedural terminology                                       ­billion) and nearly twice the investment
(CPT) codes permanent in the 2021 physi-                                         in 2019 ($7.7 billion) (Exhibit 4). This
cian fee schedule final rule.8                                                   ­increase would reflect an annualized

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                             4
i­nvestment of $25 billion to $30 billion                           convenient channels, and l­ owers the
 in 2021, if this rate continues. In addition,                      cost of care by avoiding unnecessary
 total revenue of the top 60 virtual health                         emergency department visits
 players increased in 2020 to $5.5 billion,
                                                                  • Integrating care advocacy and tele-
 from around $3 billion the year before.11
                                                                    health solutions, as evidenced by
 As the investment into virtual health                              ­recent M&A activity with the value
 companies continues to grow at record                               proposition to make it easy for consu­
 levels, so does the pressure on the                                 mers to access care and find the best
 ­companies within the ecosystem to                                  provider for their individual needs
  ­in­novate and find winning models that
                                                                  • Experimenting with virtual-first
   will provide sustainable competitive
                                                                    health plans. The number of virtual-​
   ­advantage in this quickly evolving space.
                                                                    first health plans grew from one in
    This is good news for consumers and pa-
                                                                    2019 to at least eight in 2020. While
    tients, as we are likely to continue seeing
                                                                    these products are still nascent, they
    increased innovation in the virtual care
                                                                    offer the potential of lower premiums
­delivery models.
                                                                    and greater convenience, in return
                                                                    for seeing a virtual primary care pro-
The next chapter of telehealth                                      vider as the first point of care. These
Telehealth appears poised to stay a robust                          advantages are attracting increasing
option for care. Strong continued uptake,                           attention from employers, brokers,
favorable consumer perception, the regu­                            and payers
latory environment, and strong investment
                                                                  • Expanding the types of care that can
into this space are all contributing to this
                                                                    be delivered virtually or near-virtually
rate of adoption.
                                                                    with innovations in at-home ­diagnostics/​
We are observing a quick evolution of the                           equipment or combining virtual care
space and innovation beyond the “virtual                            with at-home nurse visits
urgent care” convenience. Innovations
                                                               — Improving access, especially for
around virtual longitudinal care (both pri­
                                                                 ­behavioral health and specialty care
mary and specialty), enablement of care
at home through remote patient monitor-                           • Continuing to expand the range of
ing and self-diagnostics, investment in                             behavioral health offerings with po-
“digital front doors,” and experimentation                          tential to address provider shortages
with hybrid “online/offline” models will                            in many parts of the country. For ex-
bring new care models for consumers that                            ample, 56 percent of counties in the
help achieve healthcare’s “triple aim.”                             United States are without a psychia-
                                                                    trist, 64 percent of counties have a
In order to fully realize the potential of
                                                                    shortage of mental health providers,
­virtually enabled care models, both pay-
                                                                    and 70 percent of counties lack a
 ers and providers should consider these
                                                                    child psychiatrist.12 This kind of ac-
 new delivery models part of the core day-
                                                                    cess may also be an opportunity to
 to-day value proposition to consumers
                                                                    expand community, payer, and pro­
 across three areas:
                                                                    vider ­partnerships
— Increasing convenience
                                                                  • Expanding access to specialty care
  to receive routine care
                                                                    capacity, such as in rural areas where
    • Integrating e-triage solutions with                           many specialties may not be available.
      virtual visits to create a broader                            Even outside of rural areas, provider-​
      “­digital front door” for healthcare that                     to-provider virtual health can improve
      enables consumers to easily get care                          experience and quality of care by
      when they need it, through the most                           ­rapidly getting specialist input

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                     5
— Improving care models and health                                                           which are overwhelming consumers,
  outcomes, particularly for those                                                           payers, and providers alike
  with chronic conditions or in need
                                                                                          — The need for better integration of the
  of post-acute care support
                                                                                            virtual health-related activities into
     • Integrating remote monitoring and                                                    day-to-day workflows of clinicians,
       digital therapeutics with virtual visits,                                            particularly to enable hybrid care mod-
       especially in value-based provider                                                   els that combine online and in-person
       arrangements, where incorporating                                                    care delivery
       virtual health into their care models
                                                                                          — Alignment of incentives for virtual
       could improve patient outcomes and
                                                                                            health activities with the broader
       overall performance
                                                                                            movement toward value-based care,
     • Growing hospital-at-home and                                                         to break out of the fee-for-service
       ­post-acute care-at-home models                                                      mentality and the worry about reim-
                                                                                            bursement parity, especially for the
Remaining challenges to scale                                                               virtual health models that aim to
                                                                                            ­reduce total cost of care
Even with these innovations, challenges
­remain to be worked through to realize the                                               Potential exists to improve access, quality,
 full potential of virtual care. These challeng-                                          and affordability of healthcare, plus em-
 es include the following items:                                                          brace the quarter-trillion dollar economic
                                                                                          opportunity represented by telehealth.
— The need for better data integration and
                                                                                          Collectively, industry leaders have a
  improved data flows across the various
                                                                                          chance to help consumers and providers
  players in the ecosystem, in light of the
                                                                                          improve access and quality through the
  fast proliferation of point solutions,
                                                                                          power of telehealth.

Oleg Bestsennyy ( is a partner in McKinsey’s New York office. Greg Gilbert (Greg_Gilbert​, Alex Harris (, and Jennifer Rost ( are partners
in the Washington, DC, office.

The authors would like to thank Yuqi Shi, Rafael Mora, Katarina Pregelj, Jenny Cordina, Eric Botchler, Eric Levin, Isaac Swaiman, Jennifer Fowkes, Annie Kurdziel, Rustin
Fakheri, Rafael Mora, Shubham Singhal, and Andrew Gendreau for their contributions to this article.

This article was edited by Elizabeth Newman, an executive editor in the Chicago office.

 1	We define virtual health as a range of solutions for healthcare provider-patient interactions to occur outside of in-person visits, including
   telehealth (video/phone), text-based care, e-triage, and remote monitoring.
2	Compile data set,
3 Compile data set,; Exhibit 2 on page 10.
4	Rock Health venture funding database, 2017–21,
5	Jenny Cordina, Eric Levin, and George Stein, “COVID-19 Consumer Healthcare Insights: What 2021 may hold,” June 24, 2021,
6	McKinsey Consumer Health Insights Survey, June 2021.
7	McKinsey Physician Insights Survey, April 2021.
8	Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, “CY 2021 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule,” effective on January 1, 2021, 85 Fed.
     Reg. 84472,
 9 Ibid.
10	Adriana Krasniansky et al., "H1 2021 Digital Health Funding: Another Blockbuster Year…In Six Months," Rock Health, July 2021,
 11	McKinsey Virtual Health Vendor Database as of June 2021.
12	Erica Coe, Lisa Crystal, Kana Enomoto, and Razili Lewis, “A holistic approach for the US behavioral health crisis during the COVID-19
   pandemic,” August 6, 2020,

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                                            6
Telehealth: A quarter-­
trillion-dollar post-
COVID-19 reality?
Telehealth has helped expand access to care at a time when the
pandemic has severely restricted patients’ ability to see their
­doctors. Actions taken by healthcare leaders today will determine if
the full potential of telehealth is realized after the crisis has passed.

Oleg Bestsennyy, Greg Gilbert, Alex Harris, and Jennifer Rost

May 2020

COVID-19 has caused a massive accelera-                                       With the acceleration of consumer and pro-
tion in the use of telehealth. Consumer                                       vider adoption of telehealth and extension of
adoption has skyrocketed, from 11 percent of                                  telehealth beyond virtual urgent care, up to
US consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46                                   $250 billion of current US healthcare spend
percent of consumers now using telehealth                                     could potentially be virtualized.⁶
to replace cancelled healthcare visits.¹ Pro-
                                                                              This shift is not inevitable. It will require new
viders have rapidly scaled offerings and are
                                                                              ways of working for a broad set of providers,
seeing 50 to 175 times² ³ ⁴ the number of
                                                                              step-change improvements in information
­patients via telehealth than they did before.
                                                                              ­exchange, and broadening access and inte-
 Pre-COVID-19, the total annual revenues of
                                                                               gration of technology. The potential impact
 US telehealth players were an estimated $3
                                                                               is improved convenience and access to care,
 billion, with the largest vendors focused in
                                                                               better patient outcomes, and a more efficient
 the “virtual urgent care” segment: helping
                                                                               healthcare system. Healthcare players may
 consumers get on-demand instant tele-
                                                                               consider moves now that support such a shift
 health visits with physicians (most likely, with
                                                                               and improve their future position.
 a physician they have no relationship with).⁵

1 McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, April 27, 2020.
2	Erickson M, “Stanford Medicine increases use of televisits to help prevent spread of coronavirus,” Stanford Medicine, March 30, 2020, med.
3	Palo Alto Medical Foundation, “Video visits and COVID-19 response,” Sutter Health, 2020,
4	Beacon Health Options infographic. Beacon’s claims data suggest that compared to April 2019, telehealth sessions increased 5,130 percent
   in April 2020. (Note: data only include claims paid through May 8, 2020—additional claims for services rendered in April 2020 may be
   processed at a later date. Additionally, claims for telehealth services may not include a telehealth modifier, and are therefore not included in
   our telehealth usage calculations.)
5	McKinsey scan of telehealth and digital care vendors. Vendor revenues only partially include physician billings (in situations where vendor
   only charges a monthly usage fee or a portion of the physician fee); total spend including all physician billings for virtual visits is likely to be
   higher than $3 billion.
6 See technical appendix.

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                              7
Telehealth has surged                                                           to evolve, and virtual health could become
under COVID-19                                                                  more deeply embedded into the care de­
                                                                                livery system.
Many of the dynamics highlighted in Exhibit
1 are likely to be in place for at least the                                    However, challenges remain. Our research
next 12 to 18 months, as concerns about                                         indicates providers’ concerns about tele-
COVID-19 remain until a vaccine is widely                                       health include security, workflow integration,
available. During this period, consumers’                                       effectiveness compared with in-person visits,
preferences for care access will continue                                       and the future for reimbursement.⁷ Similarly,

 7	McKinsey 2020 Virtual Health Survey.


Exhibit 1
Exhibit  of 

How has COVID-19 changed the outlook for telehealth?

 1 Consumer
     Shift from:                                                                    To:

                         11%                                                                        76%
                          use of telehealth in 2019                                                 now interested in using telehealth going

     While the surge in telehealth has been driven by the immediate goal to avoid exposure to COVID-19, with more
     than 70 percent of in-person visits cancelled,¹ 76 percent of survey respondents indicated they were highly or
     moderately likely to use telehealth going forward,² and 74 percent of telehealth users reported high satisfaction.³

2 Provider
     Health systems, independent practices, behavioral
     health providers, and others rapidly scaled telehealth
                                                                                          In addition,
     offerings to fill the gap between need and cancelled                                  of providers view telehealth more favorably than
                                                                                           they did before COVID-19 and
     in-person care, and are reporting

                                               50–175x                                                        are more comfortable using it.⁵
                     the number of telehealth visits pre-COVID.⁴

3 Regulatory
     Types of services available for telehealth have greatly expanded, with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid

     Services (CMS) temporarily approving more than
     and lifting restrictions on originating site, allowing Medicare Advantage plans to conduct risk assessments via
     telehealth, and adding other regulatory flexibilities to increase access to virtual care.⁶

¹ McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, April 27, 2020.
² McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, May 20, 2020.
³ McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, April 13, 2020.
⁴ Ibid
⁵ McKinsey COVID-19 Physician Survey, May 2020.
⁶ Medicare telemedicine health care provider fact sheet, March 17, 2020,

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                    8
there is a gap between consumers’ interest                       with a consistent set of providers, improving
in telehealth (76 percent) and actual usage                      patient convenience, access, and continuity
(46 percent). Factors such as lack of aware-                     of care. This model also enables clinicians to
ness of telehealth offerings, education on                       better manage patients with chronic condi-
types of care needs that could be met virtual-                   tions, with the support of remote patient
ly, and understanding of insurance coverage                      monitoring, digital therapeutics, and digital
are some of the drivers of this gap.⁸                            coaching, in addition to virtual visits.
                                                               3. Near-virtual office visits extend the
What is the full potential for                                   ­opportunity for patients to conveniently
telehealth and virtual care?                                      access care outside a provider’s office, by
We identified five models for virtual or virtu­                   combining virtual access to physician con-
ally enabled non-acute care and analyzed                          sults with “near home” sites for testing and
the full potential of healthcare volume and                       immunizations, such as worksite clinics or
spend that could be delivered this way. These                     retail clinics. For example, a virtual visit of
­models of virtual care have increasing re-                       a patient with flu or COVID-like symptoms
 quirements to engage broader and broader                         could be followed up by a trip to a nearby
 portions of the healthcare delivery system,                      retail clinic for a flu or COVID-19 test, with
 going from offering one-off urgent visits, to                    a subsequent follow-up virtual check-in
 building omnichannel care models that deliv-                     with the primary care physician to consult
 er a large portion of office visits virtually or                 on follow-on care.
 near virtually, to embedding virtual services
                                                               4. Virtual home health services leverage
 in home care models. They include:
                                                                 ­virtual visits, remote monitoring, and digi-
1. On-demand virtual urgent care as an                            tal patient engagement tools to enable
   ­alternative to lower acuity emergency                         some of these services to be delivered re-
    ­department (ED) visits, urgent care visits,                  motely, such as a portion of an evaluation,
     and after-hours consultations. These care                    patient and care giver education, physical
     needs are the most common telehealth use                     therapy, occupational therapy, and speech
     cases today among payers. This allows a                      therapy. Direct services, such as wound
     consumer to remotely consult on demand                       care and ­assistance with daily living rou-
     with an unknown provider to address im-                      tines, would still occur in person, but virtu-
     mediate concerns (such as an acute sinus­                    al home health services could enhance the
     itis) and avoid a trip to the ED or an urgent                patient’s and caregiver’s experience, ex-
     care center. Such usage could be further                     tend the reach of home health providers,
     scaled to address a larger portion of low                    and improve connectivity with the broader
     acuity visits previously seen in EDs.                        care team. For example, a physical thera-
                                                                  pist could conduct virtual sessions with
2. Virtual office visits with an established
                                                                  elderly patients at their home to improve
  provider for consults that do not require
                                                                  their strength, balance, and endurance,
  physical exams or concurrent procedures.
                                                                  and to advise them how to avoid physical
  Such visits can be primary care (such as
                                                                  hazards to reduce risk of falls.
  chronic condition checks, colds, minor skin
  conditions), behavioral health (such as virtual              5. Tech-enabled home medication admin­
  psychotherapy sessions), and some special-                      istration allows patients to shift receiving
  ty care (select follow-up visits such as virtual                some infusible and injectable drugs from
  cardiac rehabilitation). An omnichannel care                    the clinic to the home. This shift can happen
  model that fully leverages virtual visits in-                   by leveraging remote monitoring to help
  cludes a mix of telehealth and in-person care                   manage patients and monitor symptoms,

8	McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey, April 27, 2020.

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                        9
providing self-service tools for patient                                      Our claims-based analysis suggests that
  ­education (for example, training for self-​                                  ­approximately 20 percent of all emergency
   ­administration), and providing telehealth                                    room visits could potentially be avoided via
    ­oversight of staff (for example, an oncologist                              ­virtual urgent care offerings, 24 percent of
     overseeing a nurse delivering chemotherapy                                   healthcare office visits and outpatient volume
     to a patient at home and monitoring for side                                 could be delivered virtually, and an additional
     effects). This would be coupled with home                                    9 percent “near-virtually.” Furthermore, up to
     ­delivery of the therapeutics.                                               35 percent of regular home health attendant

Exhibit 2

Approximately $250 billion—or ~20%—of all Medicare, Medicaid, and
Commercial OP, office, and home health spend, could potentially be virtualized.

Current OP¹ and office visits that can be virtually enabled
Commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid 2020 estimated,² billions of dollars



                                                of ED³ visits
                                                  diverted                 24%
                                                                       of all office
                                                                        visits/OP                 9%
                                                                       encounters           of all office
                                                                                             visits/OP           35%
                                                                                            encounters       of home health
                                                      35                                                         services           2%
                                                                                                                               of all office
                                                                            126                                                 visits/OP
                                                                                                                  35                12

  Total OP, office,            Non-             Virtual urgent         Virtual office        Near-virtual    Virtual home     Tech-enabled
     and home              virtualizable             care                  visits            office visits       health          home
   health spend            visits/spend                                                                        services        medication

¹ Outpatient.
² Projected from 2018 commercial and Medicare spend, using National Health Expenditures.
³ Emergency department.
Source: Anonymized claims data representative of commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid utilization

Future of nursing: Supporting nurses across settings                                                                                           10
services could be virtualized, and 2 percent                        2. Optimize provider networks and accelerate
of all outpatient volume could be shifted to                           value-based contracting to incentivize
the home setting, with tech-enabled medi­                              telehealth. Define approaches (beyond the
cation administration. Overall, these changes                          immediate COVID-19 response measures) to
add up to $250 billion in healthcare spend                             reimbursement and covered services, embed
in 2020 that could be shifted to virtual or                            in contracting, and optimize networks and
near-virtual care, or 20 percent of all office,                        ­value-based models to include virtual health.
outpatient, and home health spend across                                Align incentives for using telehealth, particu-
Medicare, Medicaid, and commercially in-                                larly for chronic patients, with the shift to risk-
sured populations.                                                      based payment models.
 Scaling telehealth does more than alleviate                        3. Build virtual health into new product de-
 patient and provider concerns over the next                           signs to meet changing consumer preferenc-
 12 to 18 months until a COVID-19 vaccine is                           es and demand for lower-cost plans. This new
 available. Telehealth can increase access                             design may include virtual-first networks,
 to necessary care in areas with shortages,                            digital front-door features (for example,
 such as behavioral health, improve the                                ­e-triage), seamless “plug and play” capabili-
­patient experience, and improve health                                 ties to offer innovative digital solutions, and
 outcomes. Fundamentally, the integration of                            ­benefit coverage for at-home diagnostic kits.
 fully virtual and near-virtual health solutions
 brings care closer to home, increasing the                         4. Integrate virtual health into the care
 convenience for patients to access care                               ­de­livery approach. Given the significant
 when they need it and the likelihood that they                         ­disruptions to providers, payers are reas-
 will take the right steps to manage their care.                         sessing their role in care delivery—from
 These solutions can also make healthcare                                ownership of care delivery assets, value-​
 more efficient; evidence prior to COVID-19                              based contracting, or anything in between.
 shows that telehealth solutions deployed for                            Consider options in virtual health (for ex­
 chronic populations can improve total cost                              ample, platforms, digital-first providers)
 of care by 2 to 3 percent.⁹ The actual oppor-                           as a critical element of this approach.
 tunity is likely greater once stakeholders
                                                                    5. Reinforce the technology and analytics
 ­embed telehealth as the new normal (for ex-
                                                                       foundation that will be required to achieve
  ample, driven by improved abilities to manage
                                                                       the full potential of virtual health.
  chronic patients, potential increases in pro-
  vider productivity).                                              Actions health systems could consider:

What actions should healthcare                                      1. Accelerate development of an overall
stakeholders take in the near term                                     ­consumer-integrated “front door.” Consider
to shape this opportunity?                                              what the integrated product will initially cover
                                                                        beyond what currently exists and integrate
                                                                        with what may have been put in place in re-
Actions payers could consider:
                                                                        sponse to COVID-19 (for example, e-triage,
                                                                        scheduling, clinic visits, record access).
1. Define a value-backed virtual health
   roadmap, taking a data-driven view to                            2. Segment the patient populations (for
   ­prioritize interventions that will improve                         ­example, with specific chronic disease)
    ­outcomes for priority populations, and                             and specialties whose remote interactions
     ­develop strategies to digitally enable                            could be scaled with home-based diagnostics
      ­end-to-care care journeys.                                       and equipment.

9	McKinsey 2019 Digital Healthcare Value Opportunity Assessment.

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                  11
Sidebar 1

What changes need to happen to realize the full potential of telehealth?

This value will not happen without concert-                   among providers and between provid-               forms outside of a single health system
ed efforts by healthcare stakeholders,                       ers and patients (for example, ensuring            and patient tools (for example, compre-
innovations in care models, adoption of                       all providers caring for a complex pa-            hensive personal health records appli-
new technologies, and supporting                              tient have access to the clinical record          cations, care navigation tools) that al-
infrastructure.                                               and can update it based on virtual visits,        low ­patients to manage their care
                                                              plus leveraging AI and natural language           across providers.
 1. Scale the use of virtual urgent care.
                                                              processes to capture notes in easily            4. Virtualize home care services. This
    This change will require building out
                                                              sharable forms). In addition, retail diag-         change would likely require increased
    flexible provider networks to address
                                                              nostic kits (for example, home pulse               access to and use of remote moni­toring
    the shortages and long wait times that
                                                             ­oximeters, blood pressure machines)                devices, tailored to specific clinical
    consumers experienced during the
                                                              must be widely available, so patients              conditions (such as remote continuous
    ­initial escalation of telehealth demand.
                                                              can take basic measurements at home                glucose monitoring s­ ensors for people
    Sustaining and growing patient use
                                                              and enable a broader set of care to be             with diabetes or remote heartbeat
    also will likely require active, personal-
                                                              delivered virtually. Providers should              monitors and blood pressure monitors
     ized patient engagement, by both pro-
                                                               have a clear end-to-end value proposi-            for people with cardiovascular condi-
    viders and payers, to ensure a positive
                                                              tion for integrating telehealth into their         tions). Providers may be required to in-
    experience with telehealth. Integration
                                                              service delivery model (for example,               tegrate use of such devices into care
    with e-triage/symptom solutions (by
                                                              ­incorporating the value from patient              plans. Payers may need to offer reim-
    either provider or payer) can make the
                                                              attraction and retention and operating             bursement, and solutions may need to
    patient experience even more seam-
                                                              model efficiency, in addition to reim-             enable i­ntegrated access between, for
     less and can leverage artificial intelli-
                                                               bursement for visits). Payers should              example, primary care physicians, care
    gence (AI) to guide patients to the most
                                                              also have a clear view of potential out-           managers, and at-home caregivers.
    appropriate care. Finally, the ability to
                                                              comes and total cost of care impact (for           These services could also require the
    access patients’ medical records and
                                                              example, by population and care journey)           deployment of supportive patient en-
    make post-encounter additions may
                                                              to inform decisions on provider engage­            gagement tools (for example, digital
     be needed to enable care integration.
                                                              ment strategies and reimbursement.                 coaching, care plan navigation tools),
 2. Scale the use of fully virtual office
                                                         3. Integrate “near virtual” office visits               tailored to patients’ needs and integrat-
    visits. This change would require going
                                                            into the care continuum. These                       ed with communication channels to
     beyond on-demand visits with an un-
                                                            near-virtual visits will have require-               providers, care managers, and o   ­ thers
     known provider and embedding virtual
                                                            ments similar to fully virtual office v­ isits,      involved in their care.
     health in the “brick and mortar” health-
                                                            and scale up the availability of “near-           5. Tech-enabled home medication ad-
    care system. Telehealth solutions will
                                                            home” sites of care (for example, work-              ministration. This change will have re-
     likely need to be easier to embed in
                                                            place and retail clinics). They would be             quirements similar to virtualized home
    provider workflows and address secu­
                                                            integrated into provider networks and                care services, as well as tailored digital
    rity concerns, both of which have been
                                                            delivery system footprints, and opti-                tools to support monitoring and care
    raised by providers as limiting factors
                                                            mize care protocols to guide patients to             delivery (for example, medication ad-
    to telehealth adoption.¹ Capabilities are
                                                            these sites. Even further data integra-              herence tools), and v­ irtual access to
    needed to allow for more seamless
                                                            tion will likely be needed. This may in-             pharmacist consults.
    ­information exchange and sufficiently
                                                            clude patient data shared across plat-
    rich clinical data to be transferred

 1	McKinsey 2020 Virtual Health Survey.

                            Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                  12
3. Build the capabilities and incentives of                                               3. Develop potential options and define
   the provider workforce to support vir­                                                    ­investment strategies based on the ex-
   tual care (for example, workflow design,                                                   pected virtual health future (for example,
   centralized scheduling, and continuing                                                     combinations of existing players/plat-
   ­education); align benefit structure to drive                                              forms, linkages between in-person and
    adoption in line with health system and/or                                                virtual care offerings) and create sustain­
    physician practice economics.                                                             able value.

4. Measure the value of virtual care by                                                   4. Identify the assets and capabilities
   quantifying clinical outcomes, access                                                     to implement these options, including
   improvement, and patient/provider satis-                                                  ­specific assets or capabilities to best
   faction to drive advocacy and contracting                                                  ­enable the play, and business models
   for continued expanded coverage. Include                                                    that will deliver attractive returns.
   the potential value from telehealth when
   contracting with payers for risk models to                                             5. Execute, execute, execute. The next
   manage chronic patients.                                                                  ­normal will rapidly take hold, and those
                                                                                              that can best anticipate its impact will
5. Consider strategies and rationale to go                                                    ­create disproportionate value. Don’t
   beyond “telehealth”/clinic visit replace-                                                   ­underestimate the potential of network
   ment to drive growth in new markets and                                                      ­effect.
   populations and scale other applications
   (for example, teleICU, post-acute care
   ­integration).                                                                         The window to act is now. The current
                                                                                          ­crisis has demonstrated the relevance
Actions investors and health services
                                                                                           of telehealth and created an opening to
and technology firms could consider:
                                                                                           modernize the care delivery system. This
                                                                                           modernization will be achieved by embed-
1. Develop scenarios on how virtual health
                                                                                           ding telehealth in the care continuum at
   will evolve and when, including how us-
                                                                                           scale. A $3 billion revenue market has the
   age evolved post-COVID-19, based on
                                                                                           potential to grow to $250 billion. The
   ­expected consumer preferences, reim-
                                                                                           seeds for success will be sown in the next
    bursement, CMS, and other regulations.
                                                                                           few months during the COVID-19 crisis.
2. Assess impact across virtual health                                                     Healthcare systems that come out ahead
   solution/service types, developing a                                                    will be those who act decisively, invest
   view of the opportunity for each solution/                                              to build capabilities at scale, work hard
   service type, including expected consum-                                                to rewire the care delivery model, and
   er/provider adoption, impact (for example,                                              ­de­liver distinctive high-quality care to
   to outcomes, experience, affordability),                                                 consumers.
   and reimbursement.

Oleg Bestsennyy is an expert associate partner in McKinsey’s New York office. Greg Gilbert, Alex Harris, and Jennifer Rost
are partners in the Washington, DC, office.

The authors wish to thank Jennifer Fowkes, Jenny Cordina, Annie Kurdziel, Rustin Fakheri, Rafael Mora, Tiago Moura, Shubham Singhal, and Andrew Gendreau for their
contributions to this article.

This article was edited by Elizabeth Newman, an executive editor in the Chicago office.

Copyright © 2020 McKinsey & Company. All rights reserved.

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                                                                     13
Sidebar 2

Technical appendix

Our analysis looked at 2018 claims data                                    injectable drugs). We included only a por-
representative for Medicare, commercial,                                   tion of the spend associated with these
and Medicaid lines of business.                                            procedures, using our estimates of what
                                                                           portion of the procedure spend could be
Emergency rooms and virtual care
                                                                           saved by shifting administration of these
We analyzed the emergency room visits and
                                                                           drugs from outpatient to home settings
associated primary diagnoses. Using the
NYU Wagner ED visit classification¹ research                           — Other: all other visits
on various categories of the visits, we split
                                                                       We conducted clinical reviews to further
the visits into those with non-emergent
                                                                       categorize the various kinds of procedures
status (a big portion of which could be highly
                                                                       into high, medium, and low probability of
avoidable if proper self-triage and virtual
                                                                       being virtual.
urgent care tools could be available at
people’s disposal) versus those that are                               Home health attendant services
higher emergency in nature, and are unlikely                           We filtered for visits and services occurring
to be avoided using virtual urgent care. We                            in a home setting, and looked at what types
assigned probabilities of potential to divert                          of services were rendered during such visits:
each category of these visits via a virtual                            — Direct nursing and attendant services
urgent care offering.                                                    (such as wound care, assistance with daily
Outpatient hospital and office visits                                    living routines, administration of IV) which
We filtered for visits that have evaluation and                          are much less likely to be delivered virtu­
management procedure codes and analyzed                                  ally—if at all
individual claims to determine whether other                           — Services that can potentially be delivered
additional services and procedures occurred                              virtually (such as evaluation, general as-
during the visit (for example, administration                            sessment, patient and caregiver education,
of infusible/injectable drugs, blood draws,                              physical therapy, occupational therapy and
immunizations, physical therapy). We cate­                               speech therapy)
gorized the opportunities:
                                                                       — For services that did not involve direct
— Virtual office visits: a visit included                                nursing or attendant services, we conduct-
  only evaluation and management and                                     ed clinical reviews to further categorize
  no other procedures                                                    them into high, medium, and low ability to
— Near-virtual office visits: a visit included                           virtualize.
  blood draws/lab tests and administration                             After conducting these analyses for each of
  of immunizations/vaccinations                                        the commercial, Medicare, and Medicaid data
— Tech-enabled home medication adminis-                                sets, we scaled and projected the spend and
  tration: the visit included administration of                        utilization to represent national 2020 spend
  drugs in a clinic/outpatient setting (for ex-                        figures, using CMS National Health Expendi-
  ample, administration of “J-code” infusible/                         ture projections.²

1 “Faculty & research,” NYU Wagner,
2 “NHE fact sheet,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, last modified March 24, 2020,

Telehealth: A quarter-trillion-dollar post-COVID-19 reality?                                                            14
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