The Growing Demand for Telehealth
A lot has changed over the past few months, and one of those things is how we deal with our health.
Telehealth has become somewhat commonplace since we all went into lockdown three months ago. Telehealth delivers health care remotely. It’s actually been offered for decades, however, only 11% of Americans used it in 2019. At my company’s last health insurance open enrollment meeting, our health insurance provider emphasized the benefits of making an appointment with a doctor virtually. I even tried it once. It was easy, quick, and I was able to get a prescription sent to my pharmacy immediately.
So it doesn’t come as a big surprise that COVID-19 pushed more people to use telehealth. Patients have embraced virtual doctor visits since COVID-19 has become the top priority for hospitals nationwide. Forty-six percent of U.S. consumers are now using telehealth. At one New England academic medical center, 85% of patients are using telehealth — up from 1% pre-COVID-19.
This is a huge shift in just a few months. Telehealth is useful for chronic disease management, post-hospitalization care, preliminary evaluation, follow-up visits, and preventative care. Telehealth usually consists of three options:
- Live telehealth through video or phone that gives physicians and patients the ability to communicate in real time.
- Remote monitoring that gives providers the ability to monitor patients’ health data, like blood sugar and blood pressure, through mobile medical equipment.
- “Store-and-forward” telehealth, which is the electronic transmission of medical data and information like x-rays through a secure messaging portal to a provider or specialist.
Having these options can save patients time and keep them healthy as infections like COVID-19 spread — a precaution that isn’t exclusive to COVID-19. If a patient shows up in an emergency room, there is no telling what infections they might encounter.
Physicians can also spend more time with patients, so they aren’t being rushed to the next patient because of appointment restrictions. Telehealth consultations are typically 20% shorter than traditional in-person appointments. This gives physicians the chance to see additional patients.
Another benefit of telehealth is how much patients could save. Research indicates that telehealth can reduce emergency room visits, which, on average, cost $1,734. The average doctor's visit is $149, whereas the average telehealth visit is $79. Not to mention, for some patients, it’s hard to leave their home to go to the doctor. They may have disabilities or no transportation, which sometimes leads those patients to stay home instead of getting care.
In the long term, telehealth could change the way that clinics are set up. It could reduce the number of exam rooms that are needed and alter how clinics utilize space, allowing more square footage for procedure rooms or multiple-purpose rooms instead of exam rooms. It could even reduce the size of waiting rooms since there won’t be a lot of people waiting around for appointments.
One telehealth company, Amwell, formerly known as American Well, has seen success and growing demand for its telehealth services. It announced last month that it raised $194 million to help keep up with the surging demand for its services and plans to go public later this year.
Amwell told CNBC last month that it’s seen a 1,000% (closer to 3,000%–4,000% in some places) increase in visits due to coronavirus. The company recently filed for an IPO earlier this week and has hired Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to lead its public offering. The date for its IPO is still tentative but it could happen around September. The telehealth market is soaring right now, and investors want to buy into this growth. Shares for Teladoc Health (NYSE: TDOC) have been up 88% this year and 34% since February.
Livongo Health (NASDAQ: LVGO), a provider of remote monitoring services, has doubled its stock price this year, and One Medical (NASDAQ: ONEM), which offers telehealth visits along with its physical clinics, is up 120% from its IPO price in January.
Amwell could see similar success. You’re going to want to pay attention to the telehealth market because it could continue growing throughout 2020 and beyond.
Until next time,