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What excites me about telehealth (Part 2 of 2)


Continuing from Part 1, here I share my personal outlook on the future of telehealth.



Outlook


1) Telehealth is here to stay


There were temporary measures put in place by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other payers to make it easier for providers and patients to use telehealth. How many of these become permanent would influence how much of telehealth sticks around post-COVID-19. It is generally difficult to take something away from people. Patients have now experienced the convenience of telehealth, and will continue to demand it. For this reason, I believe that a fundamental behavioral shift has already taken place. Telehealth is here to stay.



Exhibit A. The share of telehealth visits at Duke Health has increased from <1% of total visits to 70% of total visits

(Source: Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 27(6), 2020, 957–962)





2) There is room for multiple winners


Health care spending is almost 18% of the U.S. GDP. Given the size of the market and the heterogeneity of needs and problems in this space, I believe that there is room for multiple telehealth companies to succeed. Not a winner-takes-it-all market. For example, Ro is a telehealth start-up that powers Rory for women's health and Roman for men's health. Ro’s monetization model is based on its proprietary drug catalogue, online pharmacy services and tech-savvy UX/UI. Ro’s services, products and medication are not covered by insurance. This would attract and serve a different segment of the population from the likes of Amwell or Teladoc.




3) Amwell is well-positioned for success


Amwell, an LG Technology Ventures portfolio company, is and will continue to be a leader in health care innovation. There are many aspects of Amwell’s strategy that comes across as being extremely thoughtful. One is that Amwell has focused on building an ecosystem. Any health care innovation depends on the cooperation of multiple stakeholders, including patients, insurers, employers, providers, physicians, medical device companies and pharmacies.




4) Greater roles for technology in health care


A primary care physician once told me that on a typical winter day, his interactions with the majority of patients are surprisingly uniform. They have some combination of flu symptoms, and he prescribes the same set of medications. Of course there is a lot of complexity to the science of medicine being over-simplified here. However, given the looming physician shortage and the trend of the increasingly aging (and sicker) population in the U.S., technology can play a greater role in providing care at scale.



For example, there can be a greater use of algorithmic triage or AI. Before a patient sees the doctor, she fills out a questionnaire where the AI dynamically adjusts questions to dig deeper into the answers being provided. In return, the AI suggests a certain diagnosis to the physician who can confirm or reject it through one-on-one interaction with the patient.



Exhibit B. Technology, especially AI, will continue to play greater roles in health care

(Image Source: Bruno Mangyoku)




Conclusion


COVID-19 has affected our society, economy, community and health care system in fundamental ways. While the scars of COVID-19 are far from being the past and history is being written as we speak, I am amazed by the strength of the human spirit – the adaptability of people who are persevering. It includes health care workers sweating in multiple layers of protective equipment day and night, drive-through testing centers popping up, gig-workers delivering groceries to people’s doors, and the small nail saloon down the street from my home that set up tables outside. It is times like this where the humankind tries new solutions, accelerating the pace of innovation. Telehealth is one of the most important “experiments” in health care underway.




Views expressed in this post are of my own. These do not represent views of any organization or employer I am currently or was previously associated with.

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