Telemedicine has been around in some form since the 1950s. Yet despite the digital transformation of industry after industry, most healthcare consumers have long preferred seeing their doctors in person. Although telemedicine adoption was on an upward slope by 2020, RAND Corporation data put market penetration at a mere 4% of the U.S. population.
What a difference a global pandemic makes.
When Covid-19 struck, the use of telemedicine exploded. At Los Angeles-based UCLA Health, for example, the average number of telehealth visits went from roughly 100 to 3,000-4,000 per day between March and May 2020.
As with much of our “new normal,” consumers’ newfound telehealth habit won’t be going anywhere. Demand for telemedicine is expected to rise by 38% over the next five years as more and more patients become eager to take advantage of the convenience of digital healthcare.
Innovative telemedicine companies are stepping up to meet this trend. Here’s a look at some of the companies, both new and established, that are increasing telemedicine’s reach and improving what it can do.
Teladoc may be the most well-known telemedicine provider. It offers 24/7 access to doctors via phone or video call, so users can get medical care wherever they are and whenever they need it. The concept behind Teladoc—online access to medical consultations—is pretty standard for what people envision when thinking of telemedicine. Teladoc simply stands out for doing it particularly well, with consistently high ratings in app stores and a broad user base.
The company is also growing. It’s made a number of acquisitions, most recently of fellow telehealth startup Livongo.
Livongo represents the side of telehealth that’s focused on developing personalized health improvement plans. Rather than addressing acute health issues, the company provides users with hardware that helps them track their own health data, and then uses that data to suggest ways they can make lifestyle improvements.
Livongo may sound similar to an exercise tool like Fitbit, but instead of assisting with just weight loss, it provides medical support for clinical conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Livongo and companies like it reflect a shift toward giving patients the tools they need to take healthcare into their own hands.
3. Navigating Cancer
Of course, many conditions can’t be managed by patients alone, and not everything can be treated in an online appointment. Innovative technology companies are creating solutions for these more serious conditions, too.
One example is Navigating Cancer, a company that creates digital platforms specifically designed to help patients through the cancer treatment journey. Patients can report on their symptoms and side effects, and they receive more tailored treatment as a result.
Meanwhile, providers can use the platform to monitor patient progress, prioritize patient needs and engage patients with relevant content. The connection and organization fostered by the platform has led to leading industry engagement rates and an 86% approval rating.
The purpose of telemedicine is to connect patients with real, certified doctors. But it’s easier on everyone—including patients—if they can be triaged and routed to the right doctor before they connect with that person. That’s where digital triage comes in, much of it powered by artificial intelligence.
98point6 is one example of a company that effectively has patients interact with an AI system before connecting them with a doctor. The AI then triages them so they can get the most appropriate care. The platform uses voice and image recognition as well as data input by the patient, and it’s seeing significant growth as a result of its ease of use and helpful results.
Speaking of using data, one of the biggest repositories of medical data has become genetic testing startups like 23andMe. This platform initially grew to prominence as a way for people to learn more about their ancestry, but it has now branched into the world of medical advice.
23andMe can use your genetics to determine what diseases you’re at risk for and provide support plans that help you avoid or manage these conditions. Using genetics for prevention is a growing area in the medical field, and platforms 23andMe demonstrate how they can be used to help people to live healthier lives.
Many of the more notable companies in telehealth are young startups, but that doesn’t mean established companies don’t want a piece of the growing pie. Many tech giants are beginning to place bets on telemedicine, including Amazon.
Telehealth doesn’t sound like an arena for an e-commerce platform to play in, but Amazon’s growth goals aren’t exactly traditional. It recently built a telehealth service called Amazon Care that has already become available to Amazon employees. The company hopes to begin expanding Amazon Care to companies across the country this summer.
Regardless of how it manifests, there’s no question that telemedicine is the future of healthcare. Digital doctor visits and advanced medical software makes healthcare more efficient and more effective. Over the next few years, this sector will likely continue growing in new and interesting ways.