The CEO of ZOOM+Care on how health care providers are adapting to the increasingly competitive telehealth space.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth was just starting to emerge as an option for patients. In January of 2020 only 24% of health care providers offered telehealth visits. Now that number is closer to 75%.
At the onset of the pandemic, federal and private insurers temporarily waived cost-sharing fees for telehealth visits until the end of the year. Given the safety and distance of telehealth during a pandemic, permanent coverage of telehealth services under Medicare could become law.
It remains to be seen how private insurers will treat telehealth visits moving forward, but all health plans and providers will have to contend with a reshaped market – one in which customers demand telehealth.
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With a surge of health care startups attempting to use telehealth to disrupt the sector, providers will have to stay abreast of new technologies in a world in which virtual visits are the norm.
Torben Nielsen, CEO of ZOOM+Care, says embracing the latest technology trends is part of the company’s mission. But not even he could have predicted the explosion of demand for telehealth visits.
The rise of telehealth’s popularity in the wake of COVID-19, as well as new competitors in the space, led ZOOM+Care to launch VideoCare, its next-generation telehealth platform, ahead of schedule.
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“We have seen a surge of telehealth companies trying to disrupt the traditional health care model across the United States. American Well is one of them. I think we will see more players that have never been in the space like Amazon, Walgreens and CVS. I expect to see a lot of consolidation in that sector over the coming years.”
ZOOM+Care’s platform is fully integrated with the company's physical clinics. If a patient needs to have an in-person visit after a telehealth appointment, the notes taken during the previous appointment are available to the doctor through a single record-keeping system.
ZOOM+Care also offers chat and phone appointments, all with the company’s signature short wait time.
“We are trying to put the patient in control of their health care journey by providing them with options, as well as instant access to care,” says Nielsen.
Wearable technology is another way in which telemedicine providers will compete. Activity trackers like the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Lifesense are able to detect heart rate, body temperature and sleeping habits.
As telemedicine becomes a larger part of health care, integration with these devices could mean customers having annual physicals via computer.
“There’s a lot of talk in the industry about wearables and their ability to share your health care data with providers. That convenience is going to play out big time,” says Nielsen. “That’s what we are looking into right now. This is where we believe health care is going to go.”
There is also discussion about anticipatory technology that is able to predict when a customer will get a certain ailment.
Artificial intelligence will play a larger role in health care as remote options advance. With predictive algorithms, AI programs have already been able to anticipate heart attacks in humans. By integrating artificial intelligence with wearables, providers will be able to contact consumers when they believe there is a problem; historically it has been the other way around.
Regulatory restrictions on seeing health care providers across state lines becomes murkier when telehealth becomes part of the equation. The ability to access providers across state lines could provide even more opportunity for companies to expand access to a customer base.
“There is great opportunity if regulations for seeing providers across state lines could be loosened. We as a company are very supportive of that for the patient as well as for the provider.” says Nielsen. “There are a lot of important conversations happening right now because of COVID.”
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