Solutions powering virtual visits and RPM are almost exclusively cloud-based, enabling the rapid scale-up needed to meet skyrocketing demand. Conversely, users can scale down capacity demand as some patients make office visits. Cloud platforms for virtual visits and home monitoring are cost-effective, easy to deploy, and leverage consumer devices.

Acceptance of these technology tools during COVID-19 overcameone of the significant barriers to telehealth adoption in many countries—resistance by healthcare providers. Individual providers, professional associations and lobbying organizations in Europe, Asia and Latin America opposed virtual visit technology expansion, seeing it as a threat to patient relationships and a lower quality of care delivery that did not meet clinical standards. Given the experiences of the past 20 months, professional acceptance of the value of remote interactions, while not universal, has been solidified, and we can more correctly judge how to mix these technology solutions into the care continuum.

Telehealth Changing Competition Among Providers

As the market has accelerated, and individuals (patients) and clinicians have found value in various technologies, competition to develop telehealth and virtual care platforms has begun among payer and provider organizations and telehealth vendors.

Providers have seen virtual visit technology as a needed competitive element to offer customers. In conversations with healthcare provider innovation leaders before the pandemic, while they certainly recognized the clinical benefit of virtual visit offerings, they stated the primary reason to offer this option was to remain competitive with other providers that would take their patients if they did not offer the convenience and access virtual visits provide.

With the explosion of telehealth and the awareness among consumers of benefits, there is an expectation that consumers will utilize third-party telehealth services rather than visit primary care physicians. The expansion of Amazon and Walmart to offer telehealth visits could kick-off the next stage of competition for market share.

During the pandemic, everyone adopted virtual visit technology. As face-to-face visits resume, provider organizations must look at how to use telehealth technology and build a long-term strategy for their offerings and who to target, developing a sophisticated approach to customer segmentation and technology tools.

With the current labor shortage unlikely to abate soon, telehealth solutions can improve efficiency and reduce the time invested by higher-cost clinical personnel in patient interactions. By mixing in store-and-forward, asynchronous communications with virtual visits, chatbots and intelligent virtual agents, health systems can refine their technology tools rather than offer in-office visits for all patients in all cases. These digital health tools can help providers transition to value-based care.

Some health systems are applying lessons of technology used during the pandemic to change processes. Organizations are segmenting clinicians into those who will primarily see patients virtually and those who will return to primarily in-office visits. Providers are segmenting customers to target telehealth solutions. Some have shown a preference for telehealth to access mental health services, given the mental health provider shortage and the stigma of seekingin-office mental health services.

Rush to Consolidation Among Vendors Expanding Telehealth Platform Offerings

Telehealth vendors have consolidated over the past year, expanding offerings to include a wider portfolio of solutions. Some vendors are moving toward a platform approach; others are adding telehealth capabilities to their existing healthcare offerings.

Meanwhile, Best Buy, Amazon and Walmart have all expanded their presence in the telehealth sector, indicating competitive intensity for the consumer healthcare dollar. The ground has been seeded for higher competition in telehealth solutions among traditional healthcare participants and new entrants. Market players must refine their strategies and have the insights needed to target the right services, customers and value delivery.