Wall Street Journal Story Raises Questions on Future and Viability of Telemedicine

But Is Telemedicine An Economic Opportunity For Your Medical Practice?

Charley Grant, reporter at the Wall Street Journal, wrote a compelling story recently about the rise of telemedicine and how investors should be concerned about the potential pitfalls of this rapidly growing industry.

Throughout the story, Mr. Grant takes readers (and investors) into a discussion about the recent dip in the stock price of one of the leaders in telemedicine, Texas-based Teladoc. Mr. Grant spends 13 paragraphs highlighting the growing competition and market trends in telemedicine, and why the recent announcement by Teladoc regarding the loss of a contract with health insurer Highmark raises serious questions for investors about Teladoc’s business model.

The most compelling part of Mr. Grant’s story for physicians, and why you should care about telemedicine, appears midway through the article, in a small two sentence paragraph.

“There is certainly promise for this technology. It has great potential to cut costs and waiting times, not to mention the convenience involved for patients.”

While we agree this quote captures how many investors view the potential economic opportunities telemedicine presents, it also highlights a major obstacle though seldom acknowledged or discussed: the traditional foundation of medicine, the patient-physician relationship.

A recent national study by TechnologyAdvice Research surveyed 504 U.S. adults on how they feel about telemedicine. A compelling 65 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to conduct a virtual appointment if they had previously seen the doctor in person. This same survey demonstrated that patients do like the idea of lower costs and access to a physician being more convenient, but are still not comfortable receiving diagnosis of their health issues virtually from a physician they do not have an existing relationship with.

For traditional primary care practices, this survey demonstrates a clear business opportunity in the emerging world of telemedicine. More and more states are adopting parity laws that will require health insurers to provide a reasonable reimbursement rate for virtual office visits. Companies like Teladoc and others will continue to lobby to ensure all 50 states and national programs like Medicare adopt parity payment language.

At the same time, patients will continue to learn about telemedicine and start to tinker with opportunities for convenient access to “their” physician. Physicians can no longer sit by and watch telemedicine continue to grow. Physicians must start the discussion within their practices on how to incorporate telemedicine into their practice.

Patients want lower costs, less waiting times and easier access. But they want it with their physician and not a company owned by investors which is located thousands of miles away. Patients want to know that their virtual visit will not end up floating in the cloud, but will instead be part of their medical record in their physician’s office.

The continued and successful growth of telemedicine in the U.S. will not be driven by investors on Wall Street, but by a patient’s desire to maintain the traditional relationship with their physician.

To help understand how The Rowe Network can help your practice connect telemedicine to your patients please contact us at info@clickitclinic.com or call 800.921.0136.