Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Video in the Cloud Enables Virtual Telehealth Apps

The high-cost healthcare system in the United States is clearly ready for a major digital transformation. In particular, cloud-based video technology has begun to display the potential to alter legacy processes. Virtual visits with a practitioner has surfaced as a viable method of seeking help for certain medical conditions.

Catalyzed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rising prevalence of chronic conditions and an impending physician shortage, virtual visits will gain adoption in the U.S. healthcare industry. According to the latest study by Frost & Sullivan, the telehealth market will achieve a CAGR of 17.8 percent from 2015 to 2021.

Both physician and patient familiarity with cloud-based video services is laying a foundation for the use of telehealth virtual visits. Early adopters have expressed their satisfaction with these services, encouraging providers to establish additional services focused on behavioral health and other specialized therapeutic areas.

Market Development for Telehealth Apps

People can easily access virtual telehealth services through devices such as smartphones, tablets or computers, while using video platforms similar to Skype or FaceTime. Notably, telehealth virtual visits are gaining traction among health plan providers, payers and employers for non-emergency conditions.

These services are also attractive to parents seeking to avoid transporting young children to an in-person visit to a pediatrician. Additionally, some services focus on providing second opinions by specialists.

"Telehealth providers are seeking to offer virtual telehealth services as an alternative to unnecessary and costly visits to emergency rooms or urgent care centers," said Victor Camlek, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "Virtual telehealth services now have the potential to become the first point of care for medical issues capable of being addressed while the patient remains in the comfort of their homes."

Currently, Teladoc, American Well, MDLive and Doctor on Demand are the four major competitors attempting to build a virtual telehealth service on a national scale in the U.S. Each company believes that over the next five years, telehealth virtual visit services will become a preferred method of engaging a doctor or behavioral health professional.

Exploring the Huge Upside Growth Potential

As they pursue diverse business models and strategies, their ratios of video visits to phone calls or secure messaging are vastly different. In addition to the national scale providers, the market is also served by numerous smaller market participants focused on specific geographic areas or medical specialties.

However, despite a relatively large number of competitors they have reached only a very small percent of the possible patients who fit into the parameters suitable for virtual visits. The challenge is to attract more visits through high-quality patient experience.

"Patients will likely spread awareness of telehealth and the successful medical outcomes enabled by virtual visits by interacting with friends via direct communications and social media networks," concluded Camlek.