“Our research into telehealth sharpened our understanding of the healthcare industry’s many moving parts,” observes Isenberg graduating senior Shane Doherty. The OIM major and his teammates, Alex Domanico and Charlotte Ide (both also graduating OIM majors), are authors of the thesis, “The Digital Movement in the Healthcare Industry.” The report, for Associate Professor Anurag Sharma’s spring semester Honors Thesis Seminar, surveys the industry’s growth, limitations, and impact on consumers, providers, insurers, and government programs. It also evaluates telehealth’s prospects and leading players, including the industry’s front-runner, Teledoc.
Telehealth has been a disruptor in the healthcare industry, the students emphasize. While telemedicine and its technologies have grown steadily since the early 2000s, it has benefited from two spikes resulting from the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and the current COVID-19 crisis. The former created unprecedented consumer demand and an imperative for greater efficiency and accountability in healthcare and healthcare insurance; the latter is permanently altering the healthcare system’s landscape.
Limits and Potential
It is critical, the students underscore, to understand what telemedicine can and cannot do. Don’t expect bloodwork, X-rays, and in-depth diagnoses from your home, they caution. But telehealth does offer a wealth of critical resources and efficiencies. Wearables, for example, allow consumers and healthcare providers to track heath indicators like pulse, blood pressure, and sleep patterns. And more convenient, more flexible remote interactions with healthcare professionals—mental health professionals included—nudge consumers to be more proactive. “For consumers, that spells empowerment, including more emphasis on prevention,” says Domanico (right), who is joining Humana’s strategic group in Louisville. Prevention, he continues, equals cost savings. So too do telemedicine’s cost advantages in managing chronic illnesses. That, he says, frees up health professionals and other resources to tackle acute illnesses.
The Right Tech at the Right Time
Teledoc, the students write, is telemedicine’s decisive market leader, with 75 percent of the industry's market share. (Founded in 2003, it is the only publicly traded firm among the leaders.) With that said, newcomers have mushroomed by 41 percent over the last five years. And, adds Doherty (left), who will be working at the management consulting firm Berkeley Research Group (BRG), the industry’s rapid growth has spawned IT services and microinvestments by tech giants like Apple and Amazon. Telehealth’s dynamic growth, note the students, will continue to accelerate. That will include investments in telehealth enterprises by insurers and healthcare providers.
“With COVID-19, telehealth has truly taken off,” observes Charlotte Ide (right), who is joining EY as a management consultant. “By necessity, there has been reduced resistance and fewer delays in adopting telehealth routines. Since the crisis began, telehealth has been accessible and relatively easy to implement. That, of course, is changing consumer behavior.” How is the healthcare landscape changing? Among other things, write the students, virtual care is on the rise both among providers and insurers. Data analytics and AI are beginning to drive more personalized care. And consumers are on a learning curve in managing their own chronic conditions.