Telehealth services in general seem to be touted as what’s going to help providers deliver more effective care to their own patients. Is this true do you think? Won’t this bring its own form of competition to services like Teladoc? What happens then? Won’t patients want to communicate this way with their own providers rather than one from a service such as Teladoc?
Because of the significant increase in adoption of the Teladoc platform by physicians and hospital systems for use with their own patient populations, as mentioned previously, we agree telehealth helps providers deliver more effective, convenient care on the patients’ terms.
There is a lot of talk about the need for transparency in costs when it comes to medical care. As patients pay more out of pocket how is that going to affect the telehealth market? Can you provide transparency that regular medical providers can’t compete with?
Yes, we always tell the member up front what the cost is going to be. We don’t run a clock, like a taxi meter, but rather provide a fixed cost that is always disclosed up front. Because we know up front the cost of the service, Teladoc takes payment from the member at the time of service, which avoids the annoying back and forth that frequently occurs in traditional care settings.
Clearly, we live in a modern era of technology. And a visit will always be required for more serious concerns. But without being able to put their hands on the patient, isn’t it possible providers will/ may miss critical health concerns for patients? How do we avoid letting those major health concerns slip through the cracks with this type of service delivery?
Providing quality care is our number one priority and we take this seriously. The more than 2,650 board-certified physicians and mental health providers in Teladoc’s network are held to demanding standards. For example, they are required to review every patient’s electronic health record and prior clinical notes before every visit with our more than 12.6 million members.
Our physicians rely on over 100 proprietary, evidence-based guidelines that are specific to the remote delivery of care. This year, we will review over 60,000 charts to ensure compliance with these guidelines. In addition, we provide regular feedback to our physicians on patient satisfaction, quality of documentation, prescribing rates and other quality metrics.
Whether a visit takes place in an ER or urgent care, in-person or via telehealth, the physician is held to the same clinical standard of care. Our physicians’ only incentive is to provide great care. Therefore, if a patient needs to be seen in person, the Teladoc physician always has the option of referring the patient to an ER, urgent care or physician’s office.
With everything we’ve explored in mind, what do you think the telehealth market will look like in, say, 10 years? Are we headed for an explosion in these types of services and branching out of sorts? We have talked to several medical providers who are using such technologies in trauma centers, or for teleconferencing purposes. Are we just scratching the surface here? What’s beyond what we’ve already seen innovation wise or integration wise?
We see a massive market opportunity for telehealth. What we’re addressing today is a market size of about $17 billion. We’ve just barely scratched the surface. There are 400 million health care visits addressable by telehealth, but the entire industry is expected to do less than 1 million in 2015. We’re in the early stages and the opportunity for growth is vast.
In the future, you will see us continue to expand the scope of the clinical services we offer, incorporate new technologies, such as remote monitoring devices and biometric data, and expand our partnerships with providers.
With your perspective of the future, what’s next for Teladoc specifically? What’s the focus as it looks to the future with the challenges of reform still ahead for healthcare?
We’re excited to continue expanding our efforts in specific practice areas, including behavioral health, dermatology, tobacco cessation and sexual health. You’ll see us expand into chronic care management, integration with biometric devices and work collaboratively with providers.
What’s your advice to those startups getting into the telehealth game, not necessarily to compete directly with companies like yours, but to make an impression in the market space? In that same vein, what should providers and patients on the fence of telehealth services keep in mind?
First, any startup has to address a real need. It must be ready to pivot if the business model isn’t working or the environment shows it’s unsustainable. Not every business model stays the same. You have to be flexible. Listen to the market and tweak your product or service to address a specific need.
The single biggest piece of advice regarding telehealth is that a successful program must have three distinct capabilities: 1) a highly scalable technology-enabled operation, 2) a robust clinical-quality program and 3) a sophisticated patient-engagement strategy. If any of these three fail, the telehealth initiative can’t succeed.
Any closing thoughts for our readers?
The advantage of Teladoc as the leading telehealth provider lies in utilization. Telehealth can only deliver efficiency to the system – savings in expense and productivity – if people actually use it. That’s why we have placed such a strong emphasis on utilization with our customers, even baking it into our business model with the Per Member Per Month structure, which we use to boost utilization. Because of that, our utilization rates are multiples higher than other telehealth providers as measured by patient visits, and therefore the Return on Investment for employers who offer our product is much greater.
Our goal is nothing short of revolutionizing access to health care. That means helping people resolve their issues quickly, easily and affordably-when, where and however they want. Teladoc is pioneering better health solutions that address the core issues of access, cost and quality that deliver ROI to our clients.