At the beginning of the year, we made a few predictions as to what changes would be wrought in healthcare delivery throughout 2018. Now that we’re halfway through the year, let’s look at healthcare delivery and beyond to see what telemedicine trends are emerging in the healthcare sector overall.
1. Telemedicine is bringing healthcare outside traditional care settings.
While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expands its services to veterans in remote areas, telemedicine is making headway in schools, prisons, supermarkets, disaster zones, skilled nursing facilities, workplaces, and even patients’ homes. In some cases, such as schools, this shift was accompanied by a change in thinking from reactive urgent care needs to proactive preventative care efforts. In other cases, mHealth allowed members of the military to remain on active duty because they saw specialists through the telemedicine program.
2. The VA’s telemedicine program is growing rapidly.
The VA has demonstrated an active interest in expanding its telemedicine services for its patients, as shown by the recent unveiling of its Anywhere-to-Anywhere initiative, which permits VA providers to deliver care across state lines and outside of a VA facility using telemedicine. This ruling may be new, but the VA has already been using telemedicine for a while to treat mental health conditions. And their teleFOCUS program, a mental health resource for veterans’ families, was recently broadened through telemedicine to expand access as well.
3. Revenue reports and deals indicate a lively sector.
Teladoc may have reported a net loss of $23.9 million for Q1, but their 109 percent absolute basis total revenue increase and 606,000 virtual visits conducted that quarter reveal a bustling business, said CEO Jason Gorevic.
Also, the first half of this year has seen significant funding closure announcements from telemedicine companies Doctor On Demand, Tyto Care, and Simple Contacts, as well as acquisitions made by InTouch Health and American Well. Investors clearly see profits in the future, while the acquisitions signal expansions in portfolios and workflows.
4. Telemedicine delivery is less dependent on the payer.
The original telemedicine business model has relied on the payer (e.g., insurance companies or self-insured employers) to arrange deals with telehealth vendors to provide employees with around-the-clock virtual care, but recently, healthcare providers have entered the game on the theory that consumers would rather receive care from the same doctor they see for in-office visits. Employer-provided care can provide immediate access to a doctor, but providers can offer patients access to their doctor. Providers believe that given a choice, most patients would rather see their own doctor; convenience would only triumph for urgent matters.
These telemedicine trends will likely grow stronger as the year continues. It will be interesting to watch the interplay between employer-provided virtual care and provider-offered telehealth, but no matter which model comes out on top—if any—the patient benefits. Now that’s a win-win scenario.