The consolidation of the telemedicine market might feel like a slowdown, but it portends a brighter future.
by Bill Gordon
In November of 2010 I attended my first mHealth Summit, it was in the lobby of the Ronald Reagan Convention Center in Washington DC. Exhibitors were mostly in development and utilizing tabletop displays with handmade prototypes of their products. We were packed into the lobby with the ballroom space saved for keynote speakers and educational tracks. ere were 150 or so real exhibitors there. Over the next couple of years the location would change and the number of exhibitors would increase by multiples. e show grew to multiple ballrooms at the Gaylord National Harbor and it was a bonafide event. ATA and HIMSS evolved to marathon show floors as well with it taking a couple of days to see everything and everyone in attendance. At my first ATA one of the show floor booths was actually a working pub that opened at 4:30 PM for beer service. They even had Spring and Fall events because they could.
Fast-forward to 2015/2016 and the show floors are a shell of what they once were. Sure, there are still new companies with new products on display and some of the big players are still participating but the heyday has past. Before you get too concerned, here is why that might be a good thing: Because it signifies the mainstream acceptance of mobile healthcare and telemedicine solutions and the natural evolution of elimination and contraction.
Today many of the companies that took part in the mHealth product boom of the last decade no longer exist, memorialized by a LinkedIn photo or an abandoned Twitter account. Some were acquired and folded into a broader product offering. Others were assimilated into a strikingly similar product suite to their own. Others couldn’t survive because they were ahead of their time. They didn’t have the stamina – or the bank account balance – to last. Some simply couldn’t survive the survival of the fittest in a crowded market. There have been numerous diabetes management solutions, Bluetooth peripherals and gamification tools in the market, for instance, and it was only natural that some would disappear and give rise to those who will last.
Companies like MDLIVE, Teledoc, Welldoc and American Well are gaining more momentum every day, which is great for all the other players in the market but not great for the trade show organizers. The more mainstream they become, the more widely accepted their solutions are, the less likely they are to need that exhibit floor. CMS just announced that telemedicine visits are acceptable for face-to-face visits prior to home health services for Medicaid patients. As the adage goes “If CMS says it’s OK then everyone else will follow suit”. is is a huge endorsement for telemedicine providers and their services. It is only a matter of time before every payer has a telemedicine service offering that is as commonplace as therapy benefits. The next step in the evolution is significant contraction. As the industry leaders grow their businesses they will start to realize that they are missing key components required to meet all of their customers needs. Rather than building it on their own they will have the financial power to acquire and fold in what they need – and to do it quickly. This will empty the show floors even further. How long will it be before one of the major telemedicine providers acquires a diabetes management company and can now provide their own device and the service delivery platform to go with it? When will an unexpected player like Nike or Under Armour jump into the telemedicine fray even further by acquiring their way into a business line? In my estimation, you can count it in months, not years. Again, more show floor contraction.
Telemedicine and mHealth conferences are headed for a period of flux, where their sizes will decrease and attendance will plateau if not decrease. But not to worry, this will all change once telemedicine and mHealth service providers are truly offering mainstream services and benefits via their contracted customers. Then you will see the re-emergence of the telemedicine/mHealth conference and their return to glory. This time around they will be bigger and better, think CES (well maybe not that big) but a show floor full of products and services not only ready for prime time but with stamina and longevity. It will be a show of champions; a show of new kids on the block and a show supported by the billions of dollars we only dreamed about back in 2010.