February 3, 2022
Telehealth Rocks Consumer Healthcare: This Month’s Song
On August 1, 1981, the music industry changed forever. On that auspicious day, MTV began on-air programming of music videos. Their first selection was the aptly-titled “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Bugles. The Bugles’ one-hit wonder was also the inspiration for this month’s 4sight Health song, “Video Rocks Consumer Healthcare.”
Crafting this masterpiece required a team effort. My niece Kimberly Barnes selected this month’s song and took a first crack at lyrics. We collectively reworked the lyrics and our troubadour John Zam, per usual, put our lyrics into song and made them sing. You can watch “Video Rocks Consumer Healthcare” here.
Kim is a rising star at Teladoc. Like her uncle, she believes digital technologies will transform healthcare.
Tele-health is a rock star
Provides great care near or far
When you need care, it’s always there
Use it here or anywhere
MTV’s launch coincided with the emergence of telebanking. The term telebanking has disappeared justifiably with other 80s phenomena, including big hair, shoulder pads, aerobics and Cabbage Patch dolls. Today, telebanking is just banking, whether online, through an app, over the phone or in person.
Forty years after telebanking’s emergence, telemedicine reached critical mass in the spring of 2020. With elective surgeries on hold, favorable regulation and payment equivalency, providers jumped into virtual care with both feet. A McKinsey study found telemedicine visits were 78 times higher in April 2020 than February 2020. Wow! They represented 32% of all office and outpatient visits.
Since then, telemedicine visits have leveled off significantly. In a recent “Stat” article, Strata CEO Dan Michelson noted that virtual visits had normalized at 7% of total ambulatory visits, according to data from the company’s StrataSphere consortium.
The 7% figure seems low given telemedicine’s potential to offer faster, more accessible, safer and convenient care at lower costs. In combination with individualized analytics, telemedicine can streamline and personalize service delivery to meet patient needs more effectively. The McKinsey study cited above estimates that 20%-25% of ambulatory visits could be “virtualized.”
At 4sight Health, we’re bullish on virtual care’s potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery. In our weekly podcast on September 10, 2021, Julie Murchison, Dave Burda and I make that case emphatically in a lively discussion that references sock puppets, Trojan horses and our September 11th memories. In a pre-COVID commentary from September 2017, I detail how telemedicine companies scaled up quickly in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma and provided lifesaving care to beleaguered residents in Texas and Louisiana.
The marketplace agrees with us. According to a recent Rock Health report, 2021 investment in digital health companies was almost double 2020’s record level ($29.1 billion vs. $14.9 billion). Digital-first delivery models are proliferating and gaining traction with younger and more tech-savvy users. Virtual care modalities are particularly effective for treating mental health patients and those with sensitive health issues (e.g., sexually transmitted diseases).
Paraphrasing science fiction writer William Gibson, we can see telemedicine’s future. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. If telemedicine’s future is so bright, why has its uptake come so slowly among traditional provider organizations?
Dave Burda’s most recent monthly column, “Provider, Know Thy Customer” (the eleventh commandment), gets to the heart of issue. He explains his own frustration when a doctor switched an appointment from an in-person to a telehealth visit at the last minute. Based on the weather, she probably did it for her convenience, not his. There’s the rub. The consult was fine, but the experience left a sour taste. Accordingly, Dave gave the visit a crappy star rating.
Dave’s experience isn’t unique. Hospitals and health systems’ already dismal Net Promoter Scores dropped from 56 in April to 44 in December 2021. Providers should be afraid, very afraid. Online ratings are the top factor in choosing providers for most consumers. 83% won’t select a provider with a rating lower than 4 stars. 71% state that customer experience is the most important factor in determining whether to give a 5-star rating.
Moreover, brand loyalty isn’t deep among consumers. More than a third have no provider preference. Dave ends his article with this powerful and spot-on admonition,
Successful businesses in other industries go to great lengths to understand how their customers behave, to know how their customers think and to know what their customers expect. If businesses in healthcare want to be successful, they should start doing the same thing.
I personally hate the term telemedicine. It’s one of several modalities for delivering healthcare services. The fact the industry uses the term telemedicine means the service is still in its infancy and isn’t being optimized.
As is now true in banking, I’ll know telemedicine has achieved its potential when it doesn’t require special designation. In that world, telemedicine will just be a way to receive healthcare services.
Enjoy the song and await that future day when medicine rocks consumer healthcare.