Telehealth refers to the application of healthcare and health-related services via phone and online platforms. Especially in the US, the traditional healthcare care system has long been plagued with escalating issues of cost and accessibility. Telehealth tools supplement the traditional healthcare care systems, thereby adding value to major stakeholders in the greater healthcare ecosystem, including providers, patients, payors, hospitals, and the government.
Telehealth uses four main types of models to deliver services: 1) general telemedicine; 2) specialized telemedicine; 3) asynchronous store and forward services; and 4) remote patient monitoring services. These service delivery models often complement one another, and, in practice, can be used in conjunction to deliver remote care to patients.
While the main incumbents have enjoyed a stronger presence in the telehealth space for more than a decade, the industry’s leading disruptors have successfully increased their foothold in the market, thanks to their growing user network. Most disruptors are heavily concentrated on the telemedicine segment, given its popularity of facilitating live consultations as an alternative to physical doctor visits. This is followed by the remote patient monitoring segment due to the high prevalence of chronic conditions.
Among the incumbents of telehealth, hospitals have been quite active in implementing telehealth facilities as part of their wider healthcare delivery system. Telehealth adoption among hospitals has increased substantially over the years with more than three-quarters of the hospitals in the US having adopted telehealth either fully or partially in 2017—a significant increase from 35% in 2010. In 2019 alone, 106 hospitals and health systems adopted telehealth in some form.
Early entrants to the telehealth industry (in the 2000s) are also considered incumbents, as they are now well established and much larger in scale thanks to their substantial funding. Several of these big players have resorted to M&As in addition to the pursuit of aggressive customer acquisitions in their legacy businesses.