Walking the floor at the ATA’s annual trade show gives you an interesting bird’s eye view of the telemedicine industry. In a year full of growth, consolidation and re-alignment, the show floor provides an immediate snapshot of who’s in, who’s out and who got a face lift.
My first conversation among the exhibits this year was with the folks at Zimmer Biomet. For the unfamiliar, Zimmer Biomet has been a global leader in orthopedic devices like artificial knees and hips for decades. This Fortune 500 company is a mainstay of the device industry, doing $4.6 billion in business in 2013. Yet in 2016 they made a strategic pivot towards telemedicine by acquiring RespondWell, a tele-rehab company. They extended themselves from hardware to software, from the surgical suite to the home. And it made perfect sense. Better compliance with physical therapy regimens means better long-term outcomes for orthopedic surgery. Plus, with such deep penetration into the orthopedic market, Zimmer Biomet was able to scale their tele-rehab solution quickly, giving them an edge in the market.
On the opposite side of the floor, I ran into Trapollo, a remote health monitoring company based in Northern Virginia. In fact, I couldn’t miss this company – their name was plastered absolutely everywhere. The reason for the big sponsor splash? Probably because they were recently acquired by Cox. That’s right, the third-largest U.S. cable TV company, a broadband company serving approximately six million residences and businesses, saw an opportunity and pivoted their way into telemedicine. Now they are poised to use their massive scale and infrastructure to redefine at-home monitoring.
In the past, evolution within the telemedicine space was mostly intraspecies, as it were. A national telemedicine provider might acquire a regional provider. A remote monitoring device company might acquire an app developer to help sync up their devices. But now we’re seeing a leap – what you might call evolution between species. What will it look like for global device manufacturer to become a provider of at-home telemedicine services? What efficiencies can be gained from having an internet company run your at-home health monitoring? If Cox wades into the deep waters of telemedicine this year, even bigger fish can’t be far behind. How would a Fortune 50 company like Verizon or Amazon leverage its unique resources and infrastructure to leapfrog into the telemedicine space?
No doubt, there will be rapid change and consolidation within the telemedicine industry in the coming years. Much of that evolution will come from outside forces seeing opportunity and then acquiring or building their way into the market. These new actors will then use their unique economies of scale in ways we can’t even anticipate to push the market in a new directions. The two big questions: Who will pivot next, and who will pivot best.
In the meantime, we’ll keep watch over the industry and share stories of inspiring, innovative people and companies. We don’t care about technology for technology’s sake, but rather, what are the ideas and products that will move the needle on healthcare, increasing access while lowering costs. As always, if you have a story tip, my line is always open.