Six competitor CEOs and one ex-CMO discuss the biggest-ever digital health merger
By JESS DAMASSA & MATTHEW HOLT
It was the news that stunned the world of health tech. And us! So we had seven of Teladoc and Livongo’s biggest competitors weigh-in on what the merger means for telehealth, digital health, the future of health care delivery–and their businesses! You’ll hear from the CEOs of Omada, Ginger, One Drop, Vida, Lark & Cloudbreak, with some spicy commentary from Lyle Berkowitz who was, until recently, CMO at MD Live. From reaction to the merger to speculation about how this will impact the future of digital health funding, fasten your seat belts for some impactful and fun infotainment about all the implications of the deal.
Though it will be impossible to overstate the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake, we can also acknowledge that it has pushed humanity to creatively adapt to our new, socially-distanced reality—necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Telehealth is not a new invention, but the necessity of keeping people physically apart, especially those particularly vulnerable to COVID, has suddenly put virtual health care at the center of our delivery system.
Patients and providers quickly pivoted to at-home care as in-person visits were limited for safety, and use of telehealth spiked early in the outbreak. One survey of over 500,000 clinicians showed that by April—only about two weeks after the first stay-at-home orders were issued in the U.S.—14 percent of their usual number of pre-pandemic visits were being conducted via telemedicine. For many, that involved using unfamiliar technology and a big shift in procedures for providers. Congress recognized the need to support providers through this transition and allocated $500 million for waiving restrictions on Medicare telehealth coverage as part of the emergency funding bill that passed in March.
But, as restrictions have begun to lift and hospitals and medical offices are beginning to reopen for non-emergent care, we have seen the use of telemedicine start to taper off. The same 500,000 clinicians were surveyed in June, revealing that telemedicine was used for only 8 percent of the usual pre-pandemic number of visits. Providing quality, virtual health care won’t be as easy as flipping a switch, but we currently have an unprecedented opportunity to carry forward the best version of virtual care and create a more holistic health care system. As we work toward that goal, there are three components our virtual care system needs in order to be sustainable, feasible, and manageable for both patients and providers.