Bucking the market trend, our largest Digital Health position Teladoc reached a new high yesterday.
How to fight the spread of novel infectious diseases such as the coronavirus? That’s the question health authorities across the world have had to answer in recent weeks and it appears that new technologies, namely telemedicine and medical robotics, can play a major role.
Telemedicine, or virtual physician consultations, has been growing fast in recent years as it offers a rapid and convenient way to diagnose or cure one’s health issues. Telemedicine can also be of utter importance when millions of people are confined at home due to a pandemic or are in isolation in hospital and find it difficult to consult or communicate with medical staff. No need anymore to go to the doctor’s, you consult from home or the office and avoid crowded hospitals and public transit.
This week, officials from both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization urged hospitals to expand their use of telemedicine to help triage the sick and keep healthy people out of crowded medical facilities. The current support from health officials for remote consultations could also help solve some of the technology’s biggest challenges, which are state-based medical licensing in the US and still unfavorable reimbursement policies.
Hence, telemedicine should get in the short term a massive boost from the coronavirus outbreak in terms of usage and patient additions, and, in the longer term, benefit from a potentially more favorable regulatory and reimbursement environment.
Robotics was also pointed out as a way in the future to limit pathways for a highly contagious disease to spread, with robots expected to perform routine medical work for contagious patients, to handle biohazardous waste or to decontaminate rooms.
In the end, robotics and telemedicine could merge, as illustrated by Teladoc’s InTouch telemedical robot called Vici (see picture above) that was used with the first US COVID-19 case. Vici allowed doctors to communicate with the patient in isolation and to listen to his heart and lungs with a digital stethoscope.
In conclusion, it’s no surprise that leading US telemedicine player Teladoc and Chinese peers have been performing strongly in recent weeks. Aside from the coronavirus short-term boost to their revenue and earnings figures, we see rising patient education and the friendlier regulatory and reimbursement environment as key catalysts for a revenue growth acceleration in coming years.