August 30, 2020 - 133 views|
With the merger of Teladoc and Livongo, the shift to telehealth and on-demand healthcare becomes real, as do the hurdles yet to overcome.
As if to punctuate the growing shift to on-demand healthcare spurred by the pandemic, Teladoc and Livongo have announced the merger of their two companies, creating the first end-to-end virtual health delivery “system.” With a combined estimated valuation of over $38 billion and over 70 million lives under management, the merger will create the first digital health company to achieve the requisite scale and size to address primary care for patients with chronic illness.
Teladoc provides on-demand video consultations for primary and (through its recent acquisition of InTouch) specialty care. Livongo is a chronic care management company that provides coaching for diabetes and behavioral health.
At first glance, this seems like an unlikely merger. Teladoc services are used on an as-needed basis, functioning as more of a "backup service" to primary and urgent care, whereas Livongo plays a very active role in the daily lives of its members by assisting them with frequent nudges to monitor their condition.
Early on, both companies figured out the right market entry and per-member/per-month pricing – selling to HR benefits managers who focused on employee satisfaction and access. With just a 25% common customer base, there’s plenty of cross-selling opportunity. However, that’s not the whole story here.
This merger is capitalizing on a growing trend of on-demand healthcare by building an end-to-end digital health platform to improve the access, delivery and experience of healthcare for consumers. The pandemic has become a forcing function to accelerate that trend.
COVID-19 has spurred telehealth to become an essential service, driving its overall utilization to unprecedented levels. In April, 13.7% of total claims were telehealth-related, according to FAIR Health, a nonprofit group that analyzes private health insurance claims. Although that volume fell to 8.7% in May, a 40% dip, that is still a whopping 5,680% more than the volume in May 2019, which was 0.15%.
Several factors are boosting the interest in telehealth, including:
While the future of digital health is bright, however, the industry needs to move from its current patchwork of point solutions to a truly digital health platform that is integrated with clinical workflows across the continuum of care to deliver a seamless experience.
The resulting service (often referred to as “the digital front door”) enables health consumers to more easily communicate with care professionals and access the most appropriate level of care while boosting autonomy and transparency via technology.
Delivering a frictionless experience to providers and patients will require innovations and product changes, including the following:
Providing a seamless experience means more than the development of these features – it’s also about creating the connective tissue that brings these features together and integrates them into a clinical workflow. According to a recent McKinsey analysis, roughly 20% of the total ambulatory and home healthcare in the U.S. could be virtualized with the right technology platform, creating a new value pool of $246 billion just in 2020 alone.
The combined company of Teladoc and Livongo, with its collective pool of R&D dollars, seems well-suited to drive product innovation and capitalize on the opportunity.
Will telehealth reduce costs and improve care quality? Or will it suffer from the same Baumol’s cost disease that has been inflicted on other areas of healthcare? While the proof points have yet to emerge, it stands to reason that the increased access and reduced wait times that telehealth offers, among other benefits, will tip the scales in the right direction.
What’s certain is that while virtual care may never completely replace the gold standard of in-person care and is not the solution for all illnesses and health conditions, industry mergers like Teladoc and Livongo shine a light on the way forward. There’s no doubt that telehealth will represent a significant share of healthcare services in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.