Telemedicine is dying a rapid death. It will become a thing of the past in the next two to three years after a decade plus struggle for relevancy, a fight to gain respect, and a push towards significant adoption rates. What’s more, this is the best thing that could have happened to telemedicine. Let me explain.
Last issue I spoke about how many people I know who have corporate healthcare have a telemedicine component listed in their benefits in many cases as a preferred service. The cost is now somewhere between a Primary Care and Urgent Care visit. It is quickly gaining momentum as the preferred non-traditional PCP visit option. This is what we have all been waiting for. In some rural hospitals an ER Psychiatric visit is virtual 100% of the time. There is no late night, on-call or staff mental health professional. The ER is tapped into a “big city” hospital or telepsychiatry service that provides the service and fills the need.
As these services become more and more prevalent and integrated into regular operational flows the line between telemedicine and just plain old medicine will blur to the point that there will be no distinction between the two. In the next two to three years we will be calling all new healthcare-related technology and services just that, healthcare technology and services. We won’t be calling American Well or Teladoc, or Livongo “Telehealth” providers. They will simply be healthcare Tech companies.
This is the best thing that could happen to telemedicine. It will prove what many of us have been saying for the last decade plus, “Telemedicine is the future of medicine. It will shape the way we treat patients, handle data and improve outcomes.” Venture Capital companies have been wagering against this bet to the tune of billions of dollars, and they are about to cash in. As I have stated before, for every 10, 15, maybe even 20 dead start-ups that have blown through all their funding there is a Fitbit that is worth billions.
More and more states are adopting telemedicine resolutions. As expected, the states are targeting the very costly Medicaid population. More and more Medicaid patients are being given access to telemedicine services to help reduce the overall cost of services as well as the influx of patients at brick-and-mortar locations. The federal government has included telemedicine in numerous pieces of proposed and passed legislation. Telemedicine is taking its place as the value-add and soon to be crucial service it has been stated to be. Just Google “Telemedicine Healthcare Plans” and you will find a wide variety of solutions. For example, eHealthInsurance.com offers a telemedicine plan for $24.95 per month for an entire family. You have access to doctors, online tools, information etc… This packaging that resembles a traditional health insurance plan is becoming the new norm.
I want to close with the two following graphics. The first is from 2014 and shows that when surveyed, only 33% of practitioners provided or participated in telemedicine services. The second from 2017 shows that almost 75% have virtual care initiatives and services in place. That is 100% growth in less than 36 months. Telemedicine is a rocket moving at blazing speeds – so fast in fact that it will cease to exist as we know it today and will become part of the new norm in healthcare by the end of 2020.