Tracy Smith, VP, Customer Development
| Becky Krasley, Director, Supplier Partner Relations
The numbers tell a story, but not the whole story. Telehealth use increased 38x over pre-pandemic baseline. Approximately 97% of all primary care physicians were forced to leverage telehealth at the start of April 2020. Over 38 million Americans generated over 96 million telehealth visits and since April 2020, telehealth visits comprised 17% of all outpatient/office visit claims. The current state of telehealth is strong and here to stay, and McKinsey estimates that up to $250 billion of US healthcare could potentially be shifted to virtual or virtually enabled care. This creates a tremendous opportunity for players in the healthcare industry.
Telehealth and telemedicine are used interchangeably, but there is a distinction. According to the US Government, telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical and clinical services. Telehealth is more than a Zoom call visit with a physician. Telehealth refers to a broad scope of remote healthcare services including online scheduling, check-in and remote screening before an in-person appointment and patient monitoring including wearables. In addition, Telehealth is used for collaboration between healthcare providers, not just sharing or discussing patients and patient records but for real-time participation between doctors during patient visits and procedures. It is also used for provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education.
Investment in telehealth has exploded the past few years, even before the pandemic began, and it is expected to hit $25 to $30 billion in 2021 (it was just $7.7 billion in 2019). There are many reasons why telehealth will continue to grow even once the pandemic is over. Atop the list is convenience and patient satisfaction because of the time that telehealth saves. And even though the technology may need to improve to make it even more user friendly, most patients feel that the ease of using telehealth is a benefit. In addition, there is increased access to HCPs and specialists especially in rural areas and among people experiencing homelessness. This has led to improved outcomes and less hospitalizations and is also helping to close the health inequity gap. In fact, when COVID-19 was exploding in 2020 one hospital set up a virtual hospital with significant telehealth capabilities. The result was that 18,000 patients were treated and only 3% required transfer to in-person hospital treatment preserving inpatient capacity and keeping a significant number of patients out of emergency departments.
Telehealth has had a significant effect on mental health treatment. Aetna reports that about 60% of its members’ outpatient mental health visits are currently virtual. Patients treating mental health have benefitted the most from using telehealth and this began even before the pandemic. Of course, the pandemic accelerated that growth, with more than a third of all telehealth visits in 2020 being coded as mental or behavioral health visits. Convenience and time-savings are the biggest upsides and so is the possibility of more frequent visits which could aid progress. But in-person visits are still best for patient-therapist bonding, younger patients, those who are easily distracted and those who need intense exposure work with their therapists. A hybrid approach of in-person mixed with mobile devices and telehealth visits looks to be the wave of the future for mental health.
As we start to think of telehealth beyond COVID-19 (hopefully), it most certainly will be a hybrid approach for patients and health care providers not just for mental health treatment but for all healthcare. In fact, Dr. Sean Kelly, chief medical officer at Imprivata, a digital identity, security and mobile provisioning company predicts that soon, telehealth will just be considered healthcare. Maybe one silver lining of the pandemic is that it has shown us the value of telehealth for all the reasons stated and for cost savings, efficiencies of scale and closing workforce gaps and shortages. While regulatory, reimbursement, security and privacy issues all need to be addressed to improve and enhance telehealth adoption and expansion, it is safe to feel optimistic and embrace the opportunities in front of us to help realize $250 billion of US healthcare spend.
Since 2020, there are some updates to the Key Telehealth Suppliers in the space.
CheckedUp: Virtual Waiting Room & During Telehealth Visit (launched June 2020)
CheckedUp, a relatively new POC partner, has expanded into the telehealth space as well. This company was founded by physicians and is the only telehealth partner to offer brands the opportunity to deliver messaging to patients, but also the HCPs during the actual telehealth appointment (not just as a waiting room). Brands can run banner ads or videos in the virtual waiting room and can run banners and/or provide infographics for skins around the actual telehealth video meeting. The ads shown to the HCP can be different than the ads shown to patients during the call. Since launch in June 2020, their monthly visit estimates continue to remain quite low, averaging 2k per month.
The virtual check-in feature will be able to continue to be used now that many HCPs are beginning to see patients back into their physical locations, while helping them achieve their goal of limiting the number of people within the office due to social distancing guidelines. All the check-in and virtual waiting room features would be done as patients wait in their car, before being escorted directly to the exam room.
Populus: Virtual Waiting Room and/or Check-In Portal for Telehealth Networks
Added new provider partners: HealthTap, iCliniq, Cadence Health, Blue Mosaic, Beluga Health, Pioneer Health, EyecareLive with more to come. Populus offers an easy to access website for patients/HCPs to meet without downloading any apps which is beneficial for older patients. Their technology can be embedded within telehealth platforms that allow advertisers to deliver messaging in the form of non-clickable banner ads and videos.
Launching New Products in Q4 2021 for both patient and HCP audiences, including:
Mend: Direct-To-Patient Digital Advertising Platform in Virtual Waiting Room
Mend is a telemedicine platform available for practices and hospitals offering a variety of advertising opportunities and formats including- video, banners, and sponsored brand content. Targeting capabilities include by provider location, NPI, and specialty with access to 89 different specialties on the mend platform.
PatientPoint + Outcome Health
PatientPoint merged with Outcome Health in 2021 and will continue to partner with providers in the telehealth space. Patient point will continue with services on the Provider side in 2022, but will not sponsor with telehealth advertising solutions. Also noteworthy: PatientPoint will be expanding their HCP offerings into specialties next year. New specialties for 2022 include Dermatology, Rheumatology, Gastroenterology, and Neurology.
Sharecare: Sophisticated HealthChat (launched in 2021)
Sharecare, traditionally a DTC endemic website for pharma companies, now offers HealthChat, a sophisticated chat bot that can be sponsored by advertisers. Sharecare’s HealthChats are AI-powered to learn from and respond to emotions and tone. These chat bots will provide on demand, personalized concierge of virtual/telemedicine for patients that offer a private 1:1 way to get many of their answers normally gathered through a PCP visit.
Doxmity: Doximity Video Dialer
In 2020, Doximity added a video component to their dialer feature, making telemedicine easier for HCPs using their service. This feature allows physicians to video call with patients without needing any app or software downloads, but in a HIPAA compliant manner. Pre COVID, their dialer utilization was at 1MM calls per month. This skyrocketed to 1MM calls per day in 2020. Doximity now serves over 30% of all U.S. physicians with their paid telehealth offering, Doximity Dialer. Doximity grew year-on-year to over 300,000 unique physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who completed virtual visits with us in the quarter. Over 80% of all U.S. physicians use the Doximity platform. At this time, no advertising solutions are yet available within the telehealth solution. Advertising opportunities still live outside the telehealth platform on the newsfeed.