Tech’s Role In Telehealth Services
Technology services enhance nearly every aspect of life, including how you take care of your health. Tech’s role in telehealth has always been clear, but the COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing measures and travel restrictions have put a renewed spotlight on the rise of telehealth and the innovations pushing the industry forward. Some highlights of telehealth’s benefits during COVID and prospects for further growth and competition:
— Technology has served as a critical bridge between patients and the healthcare they need.
— Technology and digital solutions, led by the biggest players in the industry, have revolutionized telehealth for both hospitals and consumers.
— A multitude of new technology platforms is making waves in the telehealth space, opening the door to a new competitive market.
Technology has served as a critical bridge between patients and the healthcare they need.
Healthcare organizations are turning to tech platforms to be able to meet patients’ needs during the pandemic, according to a KLAS Research survey. “A little under half of respondents (8 of 19) say telehealth functionality or capacity has been their number one problem to solve during the early stages of the pandemic. The good news is that nearly all respondents have a workable solution, and the rest are in the process of implementing one. Several mentioned using consumer-facing products—e.g., Apple FaceTime, Google Duo, Zoom, or Skype—that enable organizations without existing telehealth capabilities to quickly ramp up and handle increased demand.”
A healthinsurance.com survey shows that seniors in particular have embraced technology for their health needs during COVID-induced social distancing. “[S]eniors are embracing technology in new ways during the coronavirus pandemic. More than half of the respondents agreed that they have been using technology more during the pandemic.”
— 78% research their Medicare options online
— 34% order prescriptions from an online pharmacy
— Seniors using telemedicine during the pandemic has increased 300%
Technology and digital solutions, led by the biggest players in the industry, have revolutionized telehealth for both hospitals and consumers.
The legacy technologies of leading tech companies have been instrumental for hospital-wide innovations catering to patient needs. “Last year, more than 36 different hospitals partnered with big tech companies for various purposes. Some were looking for better cloud infrastructure to store patient data, while others displayed an interest in advanced tools. For example, Kettering Health Network and Premier Health partnered with Google’s parent company Alphabet as part of a plan to build a tech-based rehabilitation center for patients addicted to opioids.”
Big tech companies’ consumer-facing health products help bridge the gap between provider and patient by providing services between in-person visits.
— Via MobiHealthNews: “Born of partnerships with the American Cancer Society, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the CDC, the social media company’s [Facebook’s] Preventive Health tool translates the clinical guidelines from each of these organizations into generalized checklists and reminders that are easier for the average Facebook user to act upon.”
— Via TechnologyNetworks: “Other companies are experimenting with platforms that may have an even bigger impact on medical centers. Amazon recently began a pilot of its own telemedicine service, Amazon Care, for its employees. Experts predict it may be a matter of time before the company starts offering its telehealth infrastructure to hospitals and clinics around the country.”
Telehealth technologies range from physical devices to video conferencing applications, demonstrating the breadth and growth potential of the industry, writes Morris Panner, CEO of Ambra Health. “The types of technology employed can include devices and applications for texting, chatting over the internet, screen sharing, phone calls and video conferencing. … [A] typical video visit with a physician will occur using a HIPAA-compliant platform, such as SimplePractice or Zoom for Healthcare. The patient has to have an appropriate device, such as a smartphone or Internet-connected laptop, and also be able to utilize the platform (which may involve downloading software in advance).”
A multitude of new technology platforms are making waves in the telehealth space, opening the door to a new competitive market.
COVID-19 and physical distancing have put increased pressure on telehealth demands, opening the door to new startups and competitors to enter the arena. “As the COVID-19 outbreak has rapidly spread and physical distancing measures put in place, there has been a spike in demand for virtual care. Teladoc reported a 50% jump in virtual visits on March 13 for the week prior. Online scheduling platform Zocdoc has added telehealth appointments to help meet demand, and startups such as Pager and Hims & Hers have expanded their telehealth offerings.”
Bringing new innovations that solve for the healthcare market’s most pertinent needs, a new generation of telehealth tech platforms is competing to establish leadership. “The most likely competition for Teladoc may come from entrenched EHR providers such as Epic, which has 29% market share in the U.S. and is now extending its existing platforms beyond traditional boundaries. The software platforms have a strong foothold in hospitals and doctors’ offices with software designed to house all patient information. Epic is now turning its focus to connecting patients with their health information. In May, Epic launched a telehealth service with Twilio which allows doctors to launch a virtual visit while reviewing clinical history and updating records. This integration saves time and money, reduces complexity, and provides continuity of care as patients remain within their familiar network.”
Huge flows of venture capital funding into digital health platforms indicates the immense growth potential in the telehealth industry. “Global venture capital funding, including private equity and corporate venture capital funding, into digital health companies in the first quarter of 2020 came to a record $3.6 billion in 142 deals compared to $1.7 billion in 142 deals in the fourth quarter of 2019, Mercom Capital reported in its first-quarter digital health funding and M&A report. Digital health venture capital funding in the first quarter of 2020 increased by 79% compared to the same quarter last year when $2 billion was raised in 149 deals.”