Telehealth is at the cusp of breaking into the mainstream driven by convergence of regulatory and technological change at the backdrop of a fast evolving healthcare landscape. The terms telehealth and telemedicine are often used interchangeably, but both describe the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve the patient’s health status. It is also described in few healthcare circles as Virtual Medicine or VirtMed.
Telemedicine market, which has been around for decades is finally overcoming the technological, legislative and reimbursement challenges. Recent regulatory and technological disruptions are driving the evolution led by: (1) health reform, which represents a positive lever as millions of new lives are added generating demand for lower-cost services in an increasingly cost constrained environment (2) recent legislation making telehealth a more viable option for providers by favorable regulations and improving licensure standards and reimbursement and (3) technology which has evolved to the point where smartphones are ubiquitous, enabling services such as healthcare to be delivered to consumers’ fingertips at a moment’s notice.
Telehealth is a consumer engagement, care management and cost containment solution that as a part of the health care delivery framework is creating new health care delivery models for the first time in decades. Telehealth addresses four key needs of the health care market: (1) cost, (2) access, (3) convenience, and (4) quality. Bending the cost curve, improving outcomes and creating a more patient friendly experience are few of the early promises telehealth holds for the health care market.
As the U.S. health system transitions from a fee-for-service model to a fee-for-outcomes model, telehealth and telemedicine technologies are expected to see a strong adoption by providers, payers, employers and consumers. Further, the recent push into telehealth from stakeholders is part of the wider digital initiatives that encompasses clinical analytics, Big Data, consumer engagement technologies, wearable devices, biosensing technologies and population health management.
The market opportunity for telehealth can be broken down into three distinct segments: (1) the near-term opportunity to offer a cost-effective, convenient point of access for low acuity care settings, (2) medium-term opportunities in specialty segments of the market, and (3) longer-term potential in providing remote monitoring and management of chronic diseases.
Telehealth market is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity driving strategies of public companies and fostering new market entrants. Industry estimates put the overall market opportunities for Telehelath in excess of $50 billion. Leading telehealth service companies, such as American Well, Teladoc, and MDLive, remain at the forefront of this revolution. Telehealth market has already become embedded in the strategy of many companies. For example, UnitedHealth Group currently works with 16 telehealth partners. Last year, Anthem launched LiveHealth Online, in partnership with American Well, which it expects to roll out nationally. Walgreens Boot Alliance has recently partnered with MDLive to offer virtual consultations through its app. In remote patient monitoring, Medtronic and Dexcom are investing to stay ahead of the curve in the diabetes space.
Successful telehealth players need to provide not only an engaging consumer experience, but also a compelling business case to providers, payers and employers, who are the primary purchasers of telehealth services. For example, telehealth can help providers extend their brand and acquire new patients without significant increase in costs.
Telehealth is a combination of IT and process to deliver high quality clinical benefits at a significantly efficient price point – all in an engagement model that is more convenient and cost effectivefor the healthcare consumer. As a technology-enabled service, telehealth is seen as a radical step forward in driving efficiency and effectiveness in a health care market in great need of both.
In-depth report on global telemedicine market by Grand View Research: