Web-based products and services have been disrupting just about every industry through the last decade, but there are a couple that remain relatively untouched. One of those is healthcare. While some startups have successfully launched products or services to start transforming the industry and some large corporates have made similar attempts, it’s an industry that in all practical sense has remained relatively unchanged for decades.
If you are injured or feel sick, you travel to your nearest clinic or hospital, wait in the waiting room (sometimes for hours!) surrounded by other sick people, all that to only see a physician for, typically, less than 30 minutes, for a diagnosis and treatment. Your grandparents experienced healthcare that way just as you have been so far. But some of the top telehealth companies are looking to radically transform this. In short, rather than make patients travel to see a doctor, these businesses will either bring the doctor to patients.
What’s the definition of telehealth and telemedicine?
In short, telehealth is the receipt of health related information, care, or other services, via telecommunication technologies. It includes everything ranging from the use of sophisticated robots to deliver care (see iRobot below) to the simple use of the telephone or a secure web portal for a patient and a doctor to communicate or even two doctors to exchange information with each other.
On the other hand, telemedicine is a specific subset of telehealth. Specifically, the definition of telemedicine is the delivery of remote clinical services. As a consequence, it’s worth noting that each of these telemedicine businesses are also some of the top telehealth companies.
Due to the challenges of access to medical professionals in most countries around the world, here we’re highlighting the top telemedicine businesses, which find themselves in a perfect position to tackle these difficulties head on.
Overall, the full global telehealth market is forecast to be worth $43 billion by 2019, compared to the estimated value of $16 billion by the end of 2013. Indicative of that growth is the fact that a survey of 140 large employers in the United States revealed that 48% of them already offered access to services from the top telehealth companies to their employees and 74% are expected to offer that by the end of 2016.
Here are some of the top telemedicine companies that are transforming healthcare delivery
A leader among the top telemedicine companies, HealthTap was founded in 2010 by Ron Gutman, Sastry Nanduri, and Geoff Rutledge. In the last few years, this startup has raised nearly $40 million. Taking advantage of the increased prevalence of smartphones and tablets, HealthTap has developed a network to help people connect with one of their nearly 70,000 licensed physicians in realtime.
Essentially, individuals can ask health related questions on the HealthTap platform and subsequently receive written advice from professionals and/or have the opportunity to speak directly with a physician via a web-based video chat. The unique appeal of this app is the fact that since physicians are publishing written answers, it has helped turn HealthTap into a constantly updating repository of health related information and advice built around what people are actually asking for.
How can you reduce the the length of your doctor’s visit to 10 minutes? Well American Well, aka AmWell, seems to have figured that out.
Founded in Boston in 2006 by Dr. Ido Schoenberg and Roy Schoenberg, this longtime leader among the top telemedicine companies, has built a platform of doctors ready to answer people’s medical questions at anytime through a video chat. This serves to benefit both patients as well as the doctors as it allows patients to receive treatment with the least possible hassle while making it more convenient for doctors to treat a higher number of patients without the chaos of a clinic.
What does a 5-foot (1.52 meters) tall robot have to do with the top telemedicine companies? Well, in the future you may be treated by a doctor who is communicating with you through iRobot‘s RP-VITA, a robot which is equipped with a video screen, webcam and a stethoscope.
iRobot so far has focused primarily on domestic robots like the Roomba and Scooba, which help people clean their homes, but development of RP-VITA is a clever use of their technology. At an approximate cost of $4,000 to $6,000 per month, it can end up being cheaper than employing a few full time doctors in hospitals located in remote areas. The doctors can remain stationed in more urban areas, while the robot is the one stationed in the remote areas and the patient and physician communicate through the iPad on RP-VITA.
Founded in 2002 by George Byron Brooks,Teladoc is one of the largest providers of telemedicine services.It works in partnership with insurers and large employers to give their members and employees access to its wide network of doctors for video visits across its platform. With more than 8 million members and 250,000 consults annually, it’s one of the key leaders among the top telemedicine companies today.
One of its differentiators is the fact that it has already gone public. In fact, it completed its initial public offering (IPO) on July 1st, 2015 and iscurrently valued at around $1 billion.
Doctor on Demand is one of the leaders among the top telemedicine companies.
Founded in October 2012 by Adam Jackson and Jay McGraw, this startup has already raised around $74 million from notable investors including Google Ventures. The purpose for that investment is to expand the number of B2B partnerships that allow for employees of a particular company to become members and have every employee see the benefits of these services.
While this startup has grown very well over the last few years, it needs to be careful going forward due to the fact that the space they are in is quickly becoming very crowded from the competition with the other businesses.
How many digital clinics are there that are focused purely on the needs of women? No guesses? One.
Founded in 2014 by Katherine Ryder, Maven, is a web-based clinic for women to find professional medical care wherever in the world they are and whenever they may need it. The reason this business is so unique and has such high potential is the fact that it caters primarily to the needs of women. This is important because women in most countries with developed economies typically make 80% of all the medical decisions for a family.
By providing services exclusively built around the needs of women, Maven can help them as they get pregnant (if not before) and continue engaging with these women after the birth of their child.
Founded in 2002, InTouch Health is focused on manufacturing remote presence technology, i.e. technology that enables doctors to see and engage with patients from a distance through for example robots similar to iRobot’s RP-VITA, which InTouch Health helped develop.
Among the top telemedicine businesses, InTouch Health stands out for the fact that it’s cloud-based Telehealth Network already supports over 130,000 annual physician encounters across 1,250 locations in 22 countries. So far they have raised $24 million, which included a sizable investment from its partner, iRobot.
One of the worst things for a first-time parent is your baby waking you up in the middle of the night because it appears to be sick. What a parent in that situation would typically do is wake up family and/or friends for advice, or, in some cases, rush to the emergency room for treatment, even though in most cases it wasn’t actually an emergency.
This is why Pacify, one of the most innovative top telemedicine companies, can be so important.
Founded in 2014 by Gorge Brandes and Ben Lundin, this telemedicine startup’s mission is simply to make parenting easier. Pacify’s network of nurses, pediatric nutritionists, and lactation consultants is available to give advice at any time of the day. It merely requires to download the app and then select the type of expert the parent would like to speak with. That’s how easy it is.
This sort of app can play a crucial role in helping alleviate concerns for first time parents due to the ease of receiving help from experts and as a consequence reduce those late night calls to friends and family and save the visits to the emergency room for true emergencies.
In a similar way to Doctor on Demand, MDLive is also a leader among the top telemedicine businesses. Founded in 2009 by Randy Parker and Dr. Steve Gurland, it has grown very quickly and has already raised more than $70 million in investment. This telemedicine startup’s aim is to help patients see doctors through their computer, smartphone or tablet instead of making the patient lose time by walking to a clinic or hospital.
This type of startup helps make seeing a doctor so much more convenient by reducing the hassle and the wait times in waiting rooms full of other sick people.
Founded in 2010, HealthSpot is one of the young top telemedicine companies, but already one of the most innovative. This company has created unique access points called Care4 Station. What’s unique about them is the fact that they are equipped with most of the standard tools or equipment you and your doctor will need so that he or she can treat you via video conference. This is an important differentiator from some of the other top telemedicine companies like MDLive and Doctor on Demand as you may not have a particular device at home or with you that’ll help the doctor make a better diagnosis.
Arguably the inconvenience though is the fact that the service offered by those other telemedicine startups enables you to access care anytime and, most importantly, anywhere, while with HealthSpot you are still limited to certain physical locations, though a much broader range of them as patients are not limited to clinics and hospitals anymore.
Among the top telemedicine companies, Spruce Health definitely stands out for their innovative approach to the delivery of healthcare. Just like all the other telemedicine businesses dedicated to fixing the problems with the current way healthcare operates, they have understood some of the core problems. But they stand out for what they are doing about it.
Starting with dermatology, Spruce offers the ability for patients and dermatologists to communicate right through their phone asynchronously. This means that the physician and the patient don’t both have to be available at the same time. Essentially this becomes a form of chat service between patient and dermatologist. What makes this unique amongst the various solutions offered by the top telemedicine companies is the fact that the others typically required for the patient and physician to communicate in real time.
So far Spruce Health has raised $17 million in investment, mainly from its most recent $15 million series A in March 2015 that included top investors like Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, and Cowboy Ventures.
So what does all this mean for the delivery of healthcare? Will the costs to patients suddenly start dropping?
But there is one area of healthcare delivery where these top telemedicine startups can make a real difference already today, in terms of cost, but mainly in terms of mere access and delivery of primary care. That is in remote areas in countries with developed economies and, crucially, across most of the countries with developing economies.
People who live in remote parts of any country, whether it’s the United States or Canada, have traditionally struggled for access to quality medical care because it’s typically concentrated in urban areas. Similarly, countries with developing economies typically just don’t have enough doctors to care for the population. It’s no surprise that typically the countries with the highest need for medical care have the lowest number of available doctors. For example, the African continent suffers from 24% of the global burden of health risks and diseases but only has access to approximately 3% of health workers according to the WHO.
Even within the United States alone there are huge discrepancies between how many doctors are available across each state. A 2010 study revealed that Mississippi has 159.4 doctors for every 100,000 people (ranked 50th in the country), which is less than half of what Massachusetts has, 314.8 for every 100,000 people (ranked 1st in the country).
But so what can these top telemedicine companies do? They can virtually eliminate this discrepancy. A patient in Mississippi can now start receiving care from a doctor in Massachusetts through one of these services. Similarly, imagine a HealthSpot device placed in a remote part of Kenya or some other African country that is in dire need of more trained medical practitioners, the medical benefits to the local communities would be extraordinary.
That is truly revolutionary.
And what about the benefits for doctors?
There is one of the key benefits for doctors and for the healthcare system as a whole that is arguably not discussed often enough. It is the fact that today far too often people go to the hospital to for treatment for an injury or disease that could be diagnosed from the comfort of their own home with the services offered by these top telemedicine companies.
Doctors benefit because patients who would otherwise have gone to a hospital suddenly can see them, which means more potential income for them.
Similarly, hospitals and strained emergency services benefit because, in theory, they can start focusing more on the true medical emergencies as the top telemedicine companies are helping reduce the flow of inbound non-emergency medical issues.
By some estimates, the increased adoption of services offered by the top telemedicine companies is also expected to help employers save on healthcare costs. A study in the United States revealed that large employers are expected to be able to reduce their annual healthcare costs by more than $6 billion.