Hospitals have become overwhelmed by the steep spike in number of patients that walk through their doors daily. As stay at home orders have been instituted across nations, people’s mobility have been restricted unless absolutely necessary. As a result, if you fall sick and your symptoms are unrelated to Cov-19, chances of finding a doctor will be a daunting task.
This has led to the rise of virtual healthcare providers. Teladoc is a leader in the telemedicine industry and in the last three months, it shares price has doubled. The company mentioned that it was “experiencing unprecedented daily visit volume,” adding that demand quickly soared to about 15,000 visits requested per day — much higher than peak volume during a normal flu season and up 50% from the week just before the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.[i]
Leveraging consumer technology to allow patients to access physicians and clinicians via videoconferencing apps — usually on their smartphones and tablets, but also via traditional PCs — virtual visits aren’t just a trend, but “part of the shift toward making health care more convenient, and they’re already popular,” writes Heidi Godman at the Harvard Healthcare Blog.[ii]
Teladoc was founded in by serial entrepreneur, Michael Gorton in 2002. Teladoc is the pioneer or telemedicine and its mission is to transform how people access healthcare around the world—creating a new kind of healthcare experience—one with greater convenience, outcomes, and value.[iii]
As stated on Teladoc website, “Teladoc is the global virtual care leader, offering the only comprehensive virtual care solution spanning telehealth, expert medical, and licensed platform services. Teladoc Health offers the only comprehensive virtual care solution capable of serving organizations and people anywhere.”
In addition, Teladoc collaborates with the key members of the health care value chain including insurers, employers, and hospitals and health systems to deliver industry-leading virtual care.[iv]
How Teladoc Works
A patient can log on to the Teladoc website or app to schedule an appointment with a doctor. Patients have the option of engaging with medical professionals either by video call or phone call at their convenience. Teledoc manages a nationwide network of over 3,100 board-certified doctors licensed to see patients in all 50 states, as well as many international regions.[v]
Teledoc offers significant value proposition to both healthcare professionals and patients. Teladoc’s technology platform seamlessly replicates a routine doctor’s visit. Medical professionals have access to patient’s medical records and test results and can provide support to the patient as well prescribe medications to a local pharmacy.[vi] By doing this, medical professionals have become more efficient as they can see more patients and cumbersome paperwork has become more structured and digital.
For the patient, Teledoc has made the process of getting medical help more convenient and less time consuming. Now patients, who do not require physical checkup do not have to sit in the waiting room for hours.
According to Mary Reed, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, in Oakland, “Patients had a very strong response to the convenience and quality of video visits. Eighty-four percent said these visits improved the relationship with their provider.”[vii]
More people want to see doctors virtually
A survey by internet research firm BroadbandNow found that 75% of Americans are open to the idea of seeing a doctor virtually instead of an in-person visit. [viii]. Fortune reported that, more than 110 million interactions between physicians and patients “done via smartphone, videoconferencing, kiosks, and other technology tools.”[ix]
Even for patients who prefer in-person visits, a video visit might be fine for some ailments. So, it’s not an either/or choice it’s more about the “and”.
In addition to convenience, many patients are choosing virtual visits because of its lower costs. Virtual visits cost just $40 or $50 per visit, notes Godman — or “about half the cost of an in-person visit.”[x]
The cost of virtual visits is now increasingly covered by insurance, which was “a major barrier a few years ago,” as former American Telemedicine Association CEO Jonathan Linkous told WebMD. “Many of the major players are now the ones providing the support for the expansion of such services.”[xi]
Looking forward, is Teladoc here to stay?
Teladoc may be the most popular company in the expanding virtual health field, but it’s not the only one, it has emerging competitors and the deep pocket Big Tech companies have their eyes on this space.
The emergence of virtual health field is not without challenges it continues to face a few regulatory hurdles. Also, it’s not yet covered by Medicare. Although, this might not a deterrent because in some cases, a virtual visit can still be cheaper than an in-person visit.
My view is that Cov-19 has fuel the leapfrog of the virtual health field. As patients are forced to use virtual visits, due to limited access to doctors or fear of getting the virus during a visit, they are testing out the virtual platform and forming new habits. I believe these habits are here to stay. I don’t believe that virtual health will replace in-person visits, because some ailment will still require a physical examination for some time.
Nevertheless, we have seen other sectors like financial services and retail be disrupted by digitization it appears that a similar trend has already began in healthcare. Teladoc may not remain at the forefront of this revolution but virtual health is here to stay.