257% spike in just 3 months – that’s what happened with just one of the telemedicine platforms Amwell in Spring of 2020.
Even before the coronavirus, it was expected that the global telehealth market will be worth $175 billion by the year 2027. However, the spike in demand for telemedicine services has grown enormously in recent months.
That is how telemedicine platforms became one of the promising businesses of 2020.
But how to create a telemedicine platform and help people in the shortest possible time frame? How to navigate patients and doctors and still get value from your platform? This article will unveil all the details.
1. The Telemedicine Market
What is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine stands for usage of information and communication technologies to improve patient access to care and medical information in order to enhance patient health outcomes.
It allows healthcare specialists to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients in distant locations by means of telemedicine technologies.
- remote doctor-patient consultations.
- health education services
- remote monitoring of vital signs, ECG or blood pressure
According to a Merritt Hawkins survey, conducted in 15 major metropolitan areas in the USA, a patient needs to wait on average 24.1 days in order to have a new appointment. The situation is even worse for mid-sized cities where an average time is 32.8% longer than for major metropolitan areas. That is why one in three patients have decided to go to an emergency room to avoid waiting.
The situation is similar in Europe, though it is a bit easier to book an appointment with the general practitioner. For example, in France it takes 6 days, however, the situation is much different for seeing a specialist. To see a pediatrician, it сan take around 3 weeks.
The picture becomes even worse when you add COVID-19 to the equation. That is why the need for telemedicine platforms is now bigger than ever.
According to the 2019 Physician Survey, conducted by American Well, physician telehealth adoption was up 340%, and by 2022, between 340,000 and 590,000 physicians are expected to be using telehealth. Obviously, after the pandemic of 2020, these forecasts look kind of underestimated.
According to the American Journal of Managed Care, 62.6% of patients and 59.0% of clinicians reported no difference in the quality of visits between in-house visits and telehealth.
Based on the Research2Guidance questionnaire, 53% of patients are interested in remote doctor visits or have already taken part in them.
The Definitive Healthcare survey indicates that 65% of US physicians in outpatient care and 40% of medical specialists in inpatient care services have already supported telehealth applications and use them regularly. In addition, 90% of telehealth investments are planned to take place within the next 12 to 18 months.
One more interesting fact: even though North America has had the largest telehealth market, it is forecasted that the healthcare IT market the Asia Pacific will experience the fastest growth driven by:
- Rising investments
- Arising trends
- Increased number of patients with chronic or infectious diseases.
2. Rise of Telemedicine Services due to the COVID-19
Telemedicine is not that new to the world — it has been around for more than 50 years when the University of Nebraska performed a medical video consultation.
However, it has been growing and expanding rapidly in recent years when the technologies became more accessible and widespread.
2020 has definitely gotten things rolling much faster than it used to due to the pandemic. As the coronavirus struck country by country in a matter of months, it became clear that drastic measures should be taken towards the adoption of telehealth, or else the whole healthcare system will collapse.
One of the examples is a new COVID-19 telemedicine program that was opened in Tel Aviv in February. This program helps to treat physically isolated patients who are not critically ill. It was created to help hospitals to make room for severely-ill patients.
Growth in Telemedicine Services Usage
Almost every telehealth platform that there is has been experiencing a rapid spike in a number of users.
Practo, a telehealth startup, claimed that the number of users on its platform is increasing by an “average of over 100% week-on-week” since March 1. And as it turns out over 50% of consultations of general practitioners were related to the coronavirus.
According to the Medical Futurist, PlushCare had an increase in appointments by 70%. Amwell had a spike in its usage by 158% in the US since January.
Another company called myUpchar is also seeing a growth in a number of patients, but not only those who are concerned with the COVID-19, but also people with serious illnesses.
Onedoc, an e-health startup has been experiencing some difficulties with doctors’ availability during the pandemic. Onedoc had an enormous increase in users that’s why the company had to divide an earlier booked appointment by four at the beginning of March. In less than 7 days they have built a video consultation that was planned to launch in the summer of 2020.
During these challenging times, many online health platforms provide free consultations related to coronavirus. WeDoctor, an e-health platform has recently launched a program against coronavirus. Since then it had 6.8 million visits and held free consultations to more than 24,000 users from 22 countries, among which were the U.S., the UK, Australia, and Italy.
3. Benefits of Telemedicine Platforms
Accessibility is one of the most influential telemedicine benefits. With telemedicine platforms, patients have the ability to make an appointment with the doctor no matter where they are. A video call can take place where a person is and can take less than 30 minutes.
It is especially important in areas where there aren’t many hospitals or there is a lack of specialists. Americans living in the countryside are 7 times more likely to report that they didn’t have a chance to get help from a specialist compared to urban areas where the likelihood is three times.
Telemedicine expands the audience and gives a number of benefits to doctors.
According to the 2019 Physician Survey, conducted by American Well, 69% of physicians are willing to have a video appointment since it increases access for their patients. Additionally, 93% of physicians said that telehealth improves a patient’s access to care.
RHA notes that there is an issue of healthcare personnel shortage. This can be seen in rural areas especially (39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas).
Not only are telehealth platforms accessible, but they are also convenient.
According to the 2019 Physician Survey, one of the reasons why physicians are willing to hold a video call with the patients is because of the work-life balance.
Besides, 77% of responders said that it contributes to more efficient use of time both for doctors and patients.
Telehealth saves tons of money for patients since they don’t need to use emergency rooms in order to get treatment as fast as possible.
An appointment with the doctor via a telemedicine platform costs around $49 whereas a visit to an emergency room can be three times higher.
Telehealth platforms are able to offer affordable prices to patients since they optimize the use of resources and staff distribution. Telehealth platforms don’t need equipped waiting rooms and office staff.
According to Statista, in 2017, around 30% of healthcare organizations reported saving approximately 20% of their costs with the help of telemedicine. Another 42% of organizations reported saving 5%-19% of the cost of providing their services.
During the time of life-threatening diseases, exposing oneself to the nidus is a great risk. And online video consulting is a much safer option for both patients and medical staff.
4. Best Market Telemedicine Services
Doctor On Demand
Doctor on Demand is probably the most famous telehealth app. In only 3 minutes, a patient can be matched with the doctor. Doctor on Demand was founded in 2012 and is now based in San Francisco. The company has raised $160.7M in total.
Using a Doctor on Demand app is no different than having an offline visit. A patient lists their symptoms and concerns. Then a doctor and a patient have a video call, after that, a doctor gives a diagnosis and suggests the necessary treatment.
The peculiarity of this app is that a user can have an instant video appointment even at 3 a.m., it works 24/7.
Zocdoc is an online telehealth marketplace that connects patients with doctors. Founded in 2007, it has already fundraised $225.9M. Due to the COVID-19 Zocdoc decided to add video communication to its platform in April 2020. In just one week, Zocdoc has already сonducted more than 350,000 video appointments.
Zocdoc uses both a subscription and a commission monetization model where doctors are charged a booking fee.
HealthTap is an AI-powered health platform that not only provides patients with a doctor’s consultation and treatment but also offers an AI-driven chatbot that helps to assess patients’ symptoms.
The company was founded in Palo Alto, California in 2010 and has raised over $80M in funds.
MDLIVE is another telehealth company that offers online and on-demand healthcare services. Founded in 2006 in Sunrise, Florida, it has raised about $120M in 3 funding rounds.
MDLive offers consultations via a phone or a video call or a mobile app. Besides offering consultation from general practitioners, the company also provides behavioral health therapy.
Babylon Health is a London-based startup that is powered by machine learning. It offers 2 kinds of services: either scheduling an appointment with the doctor or talking to an AI-chatbot.
The company was founded in 2013 and has already got $635.3M of investments.
In March it launched an AI-driven chatbot for checking the coronavirus symptoms.
Practo is an online telehealth marketplace that provides a variety of medical services such as video appointments with a doctor, chatting with a doctor, buying necessary medications and booking tests or checkups.
The company is headquartered in Bangalore, India, and founded in 2008. Overall Practo raised $251M.
5. Challenges When Building a Telemedicine Platform
When you are building a telemedicine platform, you need to think through the value that your platform is going to give to both sides – patients and doctors. Besides the obvious challenge that every online marketplace has – retaining both parties – there are some typical issues related to the healthcare industry.