The BIG takeaway from ATA’s Annual Meeting is best bottom-lined by ATA’s big boss, CEO Ann Mond Johnson, in this interview: “From an overall perspective, we just don’t want to go over that ‘telehealth cliff.’”
ATA, the re-branded American Telemedicine Association, has not only evolved along with virtual care through the pandemic, but has also been critical in redefining telehealth as modality for healthcare and re-framing access to it as a bipartisan issue that everyone in DC can get behind.
Ann talks through the high-level changes she’s witnessed for telehealth adoption over the past two years and gives us her predictions for what’s going to happen next – particularly when it comes to the business of virtual care, consumer demand, and, most importantly, regulations and reimbursement. Lots happening thanks to ATA’s new affiliated trade organization, ATA Action, which is lobbying to ensure that the waivers that enabled the acceleration of telehealth during the Covid-19 public health emergency become permanent. The time is NOW for health tech co’s to get involved! Tune in to find out how.
The health care industry is rapidly embracing new technologies. Covid-19 changed the way many industries operate, and healthcare is one industry that was particularly affected by the pandemic. Many health care organizations were already undergoing digital transformations, but Covid exponentially sped up those processes. Health care providers and health-tech companies were forced to adapt to the new normal and change the way they operate. Here are 3 major ways health care has changed in recent times.
1. Increased popularity of telehealth services:
Covid made telehealth appointments a necessity, but even in a post-Covid world virtual visits are likely to remain a core component of modern healthcare. According to McKinsey, telehealth utilization was 78 times higher in April 2020 than in February 2020. It remained nearly 40 times as popular in 2021 as compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Research shows that both patients and physicians are fans of telehealth. Many patients prefer the convenience of being able to speak to their doctor from home and physicians feel that offering telemedicine allows them to operate more efficiently. Phone and video-based medical appointments became mainstream in 2020, and they are unlikely to go away anytime soon.
2. More wearable medical devices with connected ecosystems:
The number of wearable medical devices in use has skyrocketed over the past 5 years. The wearable medical device market is expected to reach $23 million in 2023, a major increase from $8 million in 2017. Gadgets like heart rate sensors, oxygen meters, and exercise trackers are all becoming increasingly popular. Many popular consumer products such as cell phones and smartwatches ship with built-in medical tracking technology.
Wheel’s CEO Michelle Davey says the white-label virtual care startup’s $150M Series C – led by notable health tech mega-funders Lightspeed Venture Partners & Tiger Global – is “really about the long-game.” We get into the details of this purposeful funding round and what it means for the future of Wheel, as well as the play-by-play analysis of what happened over the past 9 months, since the company closed its $50M Series B. (FYI: Wheel’s total funding is at $216 million to-date.)
Wheel is currently running behind-the-scenes for an undisclosed client list of brands, facilitating 1.6 million virtual visits a year for digital health companies, digital pharmacies, retailers, and, now, even traditional healthcare providers. That number is expected to triple by the end of 2022, and we get into what’s fueling that growth and whether or not Michelle believes that this institutional push toward online care will persist as the pandemic wans and the world continues re-opening.
Armed with this fresh funding, how will three-year-old Wheel continue to differentiate its offering from legacy telehealth infrastructure providers like Amwell and Teladoc? How will it win against their legacy relationships with legacy healthcare providers? Or, is Wheel’s big bet on the continued scaling of what Michelle calls “next generation healthcare”? Wheel has added A LOT of tech to its own infrastructure recently, providing asynchronous options, better clinician matching, more triaging and navigating, and, with this funding, are is now talking about adding “diagnostic services” to round out their service line. What, exactly are we talking about here in terms of business model evolution? Tune in and find out what this stealthy startup is up to!
Stealthy telehealth startup Wheel just closed a $50M series B and CEO Michelle Davey is here to reveal the mystery behind the company’s very behind-the-scenes approach to selling white-label virtual care. The business model is built on a network of clinicians that Wheel has curated and credentialed specifically for virtual care delivery – for a rotating cast of clients, under any brand, at any time. Unlike the market-leading incumbent telehealth co’s that also sell virtual care infrastructure, Wheel does NOT have a patient front door, isn’t angling for one, and is so protective of its clients’ brands that Michelle won’t even name names about who her company is working with. She simply describes her clientele as those in the biz of “next gen” virtual care: retail players, care-plus-pharmacy-delivery startups, asynchronous care providers, labs, remote patient monitoring companies, and so on.
Wheel experienced 300% year-over-year growth — and 1200% growth from Q4-2020 to Q1-2021 — but is it sustainable as the pandemic wans and other plug-and-play telehealth infrastructure services also gain market traction and funding? And, what about the common criticism that telehealth is too transactional and that both patients AND physicians prefer the opportunity to build deeper relationships? Do providers really want to practice for multiple companies at the same time? We get a look inside Wheel’s 90% clinician retention rate to see what else might be satisfying the clinician’s need to connect, and talk about areas for growth now that the company’s received fresh funds.
“We have to look at telehealth as an operating system.” Amwell ($AMWL) President & CEO Roy Schoenberg has a way with analogies, and some of his best land in this interview as we get a highly detailed, insider’s perspective about how payers and health systems are rethinking telehealth as a result of their experiences during the pandemic.
Bottom line: The pandemic taught us that telehealth can be used to deliver a much wider variety of healthcare services than just urgent care and, so the whole idea of ‘telehealth’ is changing from healthcare product to healthcare infrastructure. Mental health care, physical therapy, medication management, primary care, and more have all moved to telehealth and, along with that shift, the “rules of engagement” around those services have started to change.
Payers are looking to become the “digital front door” for their members – providing primary care and navigation. Health Systems are increasingly looking to use their own docs for urgent care, rather than outsource that relationship and miss the potential to build trust with local patients. And, in all this, Roy argues that healthcare’s biggest buyers have stopped looking at telehealth as a “product” and, instead, are starting to see the opportunity to “rewrite their future” around a view of telehealth as infrastructure, as one of healthcare’s “foundational systems” intertwined with (and as mission-critical as) their EHRs or claims and eligibility systems.
My favorite analogy starts around the 20-minute mark, when Roy explains this operating system idea by drawing comparison to how individual Microsoft programs (think Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) would be infinitely less powerful if they were not running on the same operating system and able to easily transfer information. Another good one? How both the buying and provisioning of healthcare is being re-thought digitally, just as online shopping not only changed buying habits but also changed supply chain for retailers. If you’re looking to hear the latest on what’s happening in telehealth post-Covid, learn how things have changed for payers and health systems, AND also want to dip into Amwell’s market positioning a bit, you’ll love this deep-dive.
The American people can’t afford partisan politics that increase long-term healthcare costs.
When the GOP came to the table with a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal last week, I was pleased to see that they had increased funding for broadband access to $68 billion.
The President wants $100 billion for broadband expansion, but a meaningful increase before the soft deadline of June 7 was a positive step.
Politics aside, the pandemic made it clear how dependent we are on the issue of broadband internet access.after all, broadband underpinned nearly everything that was done to keep the economy on life-support during the lock-downs.
Without broadband access our ability to deliver education, run most businesses, and (most importantly) deliver healthcare, would have slowed to a glacial pace or – in some cases – ground to a halt.
The fact that the healthcare industry was able to make a lighting-speed pivot to telehealth during the COVID epidemic shows how quickly the government, insurers and providers can respond to deliver needed care. But, that pivot also exposed how social determinants of health, like economic stability and the built environment, still present serious challenges to care delivery for our most vulnerable populations.
“Telehealth has a much bigger role to play than just carrying out transactions,” says Amwell’s President & CEO, Roy Schoenberg, who joins Jess DaMassa for a sweeping philosophical discussion about how telehealth’s role will continue to evolve through the covid19 pandemic and the changes its forced on the healthcare market. Conversations about telehealth that were once about the value of improving “access to care” are now about the technology’s potential to drive “quality of care.” And Amwell – which says it is a “technology infrastructure company” focused on helping traditional healthcare players transition into digital distribution – is pushing past the old notion that virtual care is merely a “product to get a Z-pak.”
Roy gives us updates on Amwell’s much-buzzed-about partnerships with United Healthcare and Google, the later being focused on how the telehealth co is looking at integrating some of those famous Google technologies (think natural language processing, translation, and geolocation-ala-Maps) into virtual care delivery in a way that sounds like a lot more than just a “switchboard.”
Two other colorful Roy Schoenberg soundbites to tease you into this conversation about the immediate future of telehealth from the leader of one its biggest players: 1) “the notion that we are no longer looking at the home as an illegitimate place of care is drama in in every sense” and 2) “I think the next war-zone, the next place where there’s going to be a lot of heated confrontations and conversations, is state licensure.”
Looking for more proof that telehealth has truly become a global trend in healthcare delivery? Our “man-on-the-street” in Italy, Roberto Ascione, CEO of Healthware Group, offers a detailed state-of-play on virtual care uptake across Europe, including how policy-makers, entrepreneurs, and investors are playing much more significant roles in spurning an increasingly “digital friendly” healthcare ecosystem in the wake of covid-19. On the eve of Frontiers Health 2020 — one of Europe’s leading health innovation conferences, of which Roberto is Chairman — we find out how those backing healthcare’s quickly evolving “tele-everything” revolution are planning to come together to push this agenda even further.
Note: Frontiers Health takes place THIS WEEK, on Thursday November 12 and Friday November 13. Check out the full agenda at www.frontiers.health. Fans of WTF Health get a discount! Just use code FH20WTF25 for 25% off registration fees. See you there!
It’s the telehealth market reality check you’ve been waiting for! “Rogue” digital health consultant Dr. Lyle Berkowitz unpacks the numbers and the market potential for virtual care from the unique vantage point of a primary-care-physician-turned-health-tech-entrepreneur with nothing to lose. Having been 1) a clinician, 2) the Director of Innovation at Northwestern Medicine, 3) the founder of a health tech startup (Health Finch) that successfully exited to Health Catalyst, and 4) the former Chief Medical Officer at one of telemedicine’s biggest players, MDLive, few can boast such a wide-reaching, deep understanding of the inner workings of both the innovation and incumbent sides of the virtual care market — AND have a willingness to talk about it all with complete candor!
This is an analyst’s perspective on the telehealth market — with a twist of insider expertise — so expect to hear some good rationale behind predictions about how much care will remain virtual once hospitals and doctor’s offices return to normal, how “real” health system enthusiasm is for building out telehealth capacity to execute on the “digital front door” idea, and whether or not all these well-funded telehealth startups will have what it takes to win market share from traditional care providers.
BONUS on Primary Care: Is this the area of medicine that’s going to be the “battleground” where digital health and virtual care companies will be going head-to-head with incumbents for market share? Lyle says 50-plus percent of primary care “can and should be automated, delegated, virtualized, etc.” and boldly predicts that in 10-20 years we won’t even have primary care physicians anymore. Tune in to find out why starting at the 8:00 minute mark, where we shout out Crossover Health, Oak Street Health, Iora Health, and more.
Telehealth die-hards, don’t think for a second I’d miss this chance to also get some input on Teladoc-Livongo, Amwell, Doctor On Demand, SOC Telemed, the impending IPOs there, digital first health plans, virtual primary care, health systems (who Lyle hopes “don’t shoot themselves in the foot” with their opportunity to jump into the space) and, ultimately, who’s really going to ”WIN” in virtual care moving forward. For this, jump in at 17:00 minutes and hold on!
JUST before the Teladoc-Livongo merger was announced, I had a chance to catch up with Doctor on Demand’s CEO, Hill Ferguson. The future for telehealth, he said, is “bright green” — and I’m pretty sure it’s looking even greener now! Doctor On Demand has stood out among telehealth companies for being particularly early on virtual primary care and it sounds like they’re going to continue developing that line of business — in which they have key partnerships with Humana and Walmart — with the $75M series D funding they just received.
Add to that a brand-new, first-of-its-kind telehealth program for the Medicare Part B population, and crazy consumer-focused type UX features like same-day scheduling for behavioral mental health care (yes, that’s right, dynamic scheduling for healthcare is here, folks!) and you can start to see how DOD is strategizing to pull away from the pack.
With the competitive landscape shifting, especially after Teladoc-Livongo, how does Hill view the onslaught of new entrants like digital health companies who added telehealth in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, or potential unicorns like Ro or HIMS, who are focused on tying the prescription drug business into virtual care delivery? It’s the insider insight you’ve been waiting for in this era of ‘tele-everything’ healthcare.
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