By Jon Pearce
The global telehealth market is on track to reach $19.5 Billion by 2025. That’s an increase of 225 percent in less than ten years – an advance of truly cosmic proportions if you ask me. It’s no wonder telemedicine was first created to meet the needs of NASA and provide astronauts with better medical care during space missions. While that may have proved to be one small step for man, those that are able to take advantage of the opportunities that still exist in the industry today could end up providing an even bigger leap for mankind.
What’s driving all this growth? First, the entire healthcare landscape is evolving and becoming much more competitive. This means that consumers today have more choices than ever when it comes to their health, enabling them the opportunity to “shop” around for their healthcare. In many cases they are choosing the more convenient and accessible care that telehealth systems can supply. The result: a complete retailization of the industry that’s got everyone changing their traditional orbits and reaching for new heights.
Here are the top three change-drivers fueling the retailization of the virtual care industry and propelling it to takeoff:
If working out comes to mind when you think of CrossFit, think again. In addition to building muscle, the company is also building an army of doctors to disrupt healthcare. And they aren’t alone. We are increasingly seeing players outside of the healthcare space enter the market and bring their own spin to healthcare delivery. Look at Apple; the company now offers health tracking functionalities in their wearable and personal technology products and has been hiring doctors—as many as 50 over the past few years. Google’s parent company Alphabet recently moved to combine its DeepMind AI and healthcare businesses. Even Facebook tried getting in on the action, looking at how they could link social health determinants to actual patient health records. All of these new players are giving consumers multiple choices when it comes to where to get their healthcare, vastly changing the competitive playing field.
The lines are constantly being blurred between, pharmacy, traditional doctor’s office, retail clinic and digital health provider. That’s because no one wants to settle for the stars, when there’s an entire solar system of opportunities to explore. Walgreens for example, was one of the early companies to jump on the retail clinic bandwagon. Now they are branching into other convenient care avenues, including telemedicine and virtual care to reach new consumers, launching a digital health service geared toward patients that connects them with direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies and a few regionally select provider organizations. Additionally, Walgreens announced a partnership with Verily – Alphabet’s life sciences subsidiary, aimed at finding more affordable solutions for patients and specifically helping with medication adherence. These companies have long had their toes dipped into healthcare but are quickly seeing if they want to stay competitive they need to offer consumers, who are increasingly valuing convenience, more than just one thing.
Technology alone is creating an entirely new method of healthcare delivery. We have incredible innovations at our finger tips that are changing the ways consumers want to interact with their healthcare providers. Smart companies are taking notice. For example, CVS’ Minute Clinic rolled out a new virtual care offering named Minute Clinic Video Visits. This new healthcare platform provides patients with access to healthcare services 24 hours a day, seven days a week from their mobile device. As these innovations become more and more advanced, they will transform the way patients consume healthcare, especially in today’s on-demand economy.
One thing is clear, they sky is truly the limit when it comes to healthcare and the virtual care industry. In the U.S. alone, healthcare is a $3 trillion industry, and it continues to grow. I for one, am looking forward to seeing how it will continue to evolve, especially as an industry that has yet to fully realize the benefits of the digital revolution. That means the race is still open to become the Neil Armstrong of healthcare and everyone is vying for their shot at first place.
Jon Pearce is co-founder and CEO of Zipnosis. As a healthcare entrepreneur with experience in med-tech start-ups and as a venture analyst, he is focused on leveraging the power of technology to improve the way health systems engage with and treat their patients.