DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Uber launches ride sharing platform for hospitals - Teladoc nearly doubles revenue - Google-sister Verily plans insurance market play
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UBER LAUNCHES HEALTH PLATFORM: Riding-sharing company Uber unveiled Uber Health, a centralized healthcare platform that aims to make it easier for providers to assign nonemergency medical transport (NEMT) for their patients and clients. Hospital admins can schedule rides for patients to take place immediately, within a few hours, or up to 30 days in advance. Uber Health also released an API so that organizations can add the service to their existing patient management software. Patients will receive alerts via text message, which means they don't need to have the Uber app or a smartphone to use the feature. Uber said its working on a voice service for landlines.
Uber Health aims to improve the rate of patients turning up to appointments, saving hospital networks billions.
- About 3.6 million patients miss medical appointments each year because of transportation barriers, according to the National Academy of Sciences. The lost revenue from missed appointments could be as much as $150 billion each year, according to Health Management Technology.
- Missed appointments can lead to poor health outcomes and increased emergency department visits and hospitalizations, placing further strain on hospitals and emergency response staff. By allowing staff to book transport in advance, Uber Health could help alleviate this issue.
Uber's not alone in the non-emergency medical transport (NEMT), but it's arguably the most recognizable, which could give it a leg-up over the competition. Rival ride-sharing company Lyft has also made several forays, including a partnership with Hitch Health. Meanwhile, other companies, like Veyo, are dedicated NEMT services. A beta version of the Uber Health platform released in July 2017 is already being used by more than 100 healthcare organizations in the US.
However, as ride-sharing companies take a larger role within NEMT, they're likely to face barriers that could stymie adoption. For example, there is some concern over whether drivers will be liable for anything that happens to the patient to or from their appointment, according to BuzzFeed. Further, it's not clear whether ride-sharing has a positive impact on appointment no-shows, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
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TELADOC NEARLY DOUBLES ITS REVENUE IN 2017: Telemedicine company Teladoc reported positive results in Q4 2017 with $77 million in revenue, up 106% year-over-year (YoY), and an 89% increase in total revenue for the year to reach $233 million. Teladoc also more than doubled its hospital and health system partners during the year - the firm now supports over 200 hospitals. The addition of these new partners, which includes Mount Sinai and Mercy Health Network, coupled with a severe flu season, catalyzed a 54% increase in telemedicine appointments, reaching 1.5 million during the year.
Teladoc is poised for an even bigger year in 2018:
- In January, more than 50% of visits were new and on peak days the company averaged 8,000 visits. This is a critical figure for the company because those that use telehealth for the first time are more likely to return in the same year, according to Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic.
- Telehealth is becoming a priority for executives, which could help Teladoc enter even more partnerships in 2018. Fifty-six percent of healthcare executives stated they had implemented telemedicine services, and of the 44% that had not done so 86% said it was a medium to high priority, according to Sage Growth Partners.
VERILY TO MOVE INTO THE INSURANCE MARKET: Verily, the life sciences unit owned by Google's parent company Alphabet, is moving into the insurance market, according to CNBC. The firm recently posted several job openings that asked for experience in working with health insurers and managing at-risk patient populations. Verily is already in talks with insurers about jointly bidding for contracts in which it would take on risk for hundreds of thousands of patients, sources told CNBC. Verily could potentially be seen as a valuable partner in population health management. For example, the company could use its ability to gather and analyze massive sets of data to identify at-risk patients and the types of care they would most benefit from, driving down future costs for insurers in the process. For its part, Verily would get a share of these savings, and build a presence in the growing population health management market, which is projected to reach $42.5 billion by 2021 from $13.9 billion in 2016, according to MarketsandMarkets. Verily's healthcare strategy differs from other tech giants, like Amazon and Apple, aiming to complement the offerings of traditional healthcare companies, whereas Amazon and Apple's solutions would enable them to cut out traditional firms.
LENSCRAFTERS LEVERAGES IPADS TO PERFORM EYE EXAMS: LensCrafters, a division of Luxottica that provides eye doctor consultations and sells eyeglasses, has partnered with Apple to use iPads during examinations, according to MobiHealthNews. During Apple's Q1 2018 earnings call, CEO Tim Cook told shareholders that LensCrafters would be using over 7,000 iPad Pros to provide digital eye exams and digital optical measurements. LensCrafters is already enabling doctors to conduct eye exams directly from iPads. Instead of manually turning dials to gauge what images are more clear for patients doctors can run a digital refractor and change lenses directly off of the tablet. After the exams, doctors use the iPads to show and explain eye health images, simulations, and lens benefits. Giving doctors a more efficient way to perform exams while also providing them a way to increase patient engaged could help LensCrafters increase customer satisfaction. For Apple, positive end results could open up another avenue for the company to capture a piece of the healthcare industry - the global optometry market was valued at $56 billion in 2016, according to a report by Transparency Market Research.
MEDTRONIC, LVHN PARTNER TO PROVE VALUE-BASED CARE OPPORTUNITY: Medical device company Medtronic signed a five-year deal with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) to explore and demonstrate the benefits of value-based care, according to CNBC. The two companies will use Medtronic equipment to develop treatment processes for more than 70 conditions with the aim of improving patient outcomes and lowering the cost of treatments. Value-based care is a reimbursement system where healthcare companies are paid for the overall positive outcome of a patient's journey, rather than for each service used, which is the current system (fee-for-service). The idea is that value-based care will help focus pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies on treatments that work, since they won't get paid. However, value-based care faces the issue of how to measure and value these outcomes. LVHN will compare patient results with existing data from its hospital network to quantify the results, some of which will form the basis for how Medtronic gets paid. The two companies plan to reach 500,000 patients in Northeast Pennsylvania and reduce costs by $100 million. Should the partnership yield positive results, it will serve as another step closer to providing a proof-of-concept for value-based care.
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