In the old days, doctors used to make frequent house calls. More recently, these visits have become the exception than the rule, as patients typically went to a treatment facility, such as a doctor’s office or a hospital to seek treatment. The public health emergency has reversed this trend.
As more people sheltered and resorted to telehealth for treatment, new and improved solutions were introduced and became widely adopted and regulators loosened reimbursement. This sudden adoption of digital treatment modalities opened the innovation floodgates, unleashing digital acceleration on an unprecedented scale and scope across the industry.
While many of the digital solutions being used to date are not new, the pandemic caused providers, patients, and regulators alike to overcome hurdles and resistance and embrace them because they had no choice. Today, digital health is an exciting and fast-growing industry receiving massive investment and growing attention from investors, vendors, and providers alike; it is expected to grow at a 14.8% rate between 2021 and 2026.
Widely adopted during the early days of the public health emergency, telehealth is an expedient, if imperfect treatment modality. Today, more advanced solutions are being deployed. For example, post-surgical patients are provided with a kit to monitor vitals at home.
Similarly, patients with chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes are also given an ensemble to monitor their condition at home. These Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) kits are an area that is exploding. In late 2019, the largest US insurer, United Healthcare, bought Vivify, an RPM vendor.
But an even more exciting trend in healthcare is to bring the hospital to the home. Indeed, studies have demonstrated that patients heal better in their home environment. An industry wide effort is underway to bring care, even acute care, to the patient; Moving Health Home, with membership among major industry stakeholders, is advocating for the right regulatory environment to bring care to the patient, and young companies are developing solutions to enable the home hospital.
One notable vendor at the forefront of this effort, Medically Home has recently raised $110 million in a new funding round, from investors including Cardinal Health; this on top of $100 million the company received in May 2021 from investors including Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente.
Home health presents a significant high-margin revenue opportunity for telecom service providers and their vendors, particularly as home health services could be paid for by health insurers, or other major healthcare players.
Some telecom service providers have taken notice and have introduced services aimed at enabling home healthcare delivery. One example is AT&T’s Virtual Care solution, an end-to-end, ready-to-use virtual care platform for telehealth, remote patient monitoring, activity tracking, personal emergency response system, and fall detection.
But the telecom industry can do more to play a meaningful role in this fast-developing market:
These are by no stretch a comprehensive list. Home health is a dynamic and fast-moving area, and one where the telecom industry needs to step up to play a meaningful role.
This is a relatively new research area for me. Please engage with me on Twitter at @offredo or email me to explore the implications of this development for your business. ■
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