The coronavirus pandemic has increased the work pressure on healthcare workers and other medical staff members. Doctors and nurses are being pushed to focus their energies on patients suffering from Covid-19.
While hospitals and clinics are providing their critical care services to other patients who suffer from injuries, high blood pressure, and more, such patients often avoid coming to hospitals to meet the doctor.
The primary reason behind such behavior of patients is – rate at which the Covid-19 pandemic is spreading. The much-needed innovation that can solve the above pain points in the healthcare sector is – telehealth.
Telehealth brings convenience for patients and service providers living in different areas. For city dwellers, telehealth reduces the in-person visitation charges as well as time spent while traveling to the hospital.
For people in rural areas, telehealth brings expert treatment as a person is often hundreds of miles away from a healthcare facility with advanced capabilities.
For service providers, telehealth enables them to move away from the fee-for-service model to the value-based model, helping small care facilities stay economically viable.
The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed humanity to stay indoors and benefit by working remotely. The same is true for the healthcare sector as patients can benefit from remote consultation with doctors.
The influx of patients suffering from coronavirus will gradually slow down, which leaves many thinking about the future of healthcare. One such opportunity which can be seen as a necessity in the near future is telehealth.
Even during the pandemic, telehealth comes with a promise to reduce the spread of this virus.
Telehealth reduces the workload of doctors and nurses working tirelessly in hospitals. Patients who feel sick can schedule an online appointment with a doctor. The doctor can study the symptoms remotely. If anything serious comes up, the patient can then be asked to come to the hospital for further tests.
Telehealth can be used to connect small healthcare facilities with advanced ones. In rural areas, many healthcare facilities don’t have specialists in different fields. If a patient needs a critical care consultation, then using telehealth, medical staff can seek guidance from specialists through telehealth. Thus, saving the patient from traveling hundreds of miles to find critical care.
The telehealth capability needs to be understood by companies that make up the healthcare ecosystem. Health insurance policies hold great importance for a regular person. Companies providing such health insurance policies need to understand the need of the hour and try to include telehealth based services as well.
For a telehealth business, offering a couple of consultation services rarely adds value for patients. Considering different factors like increasing convenience, growing competition, changing economic indicators, Covid-19 pandemic, and more, a telehealth business may have to provide at-least some consultation services to become a one-stop-shop. The services offered by a telehealth business may range from general health to critical care consultation.
There is a lot of investment already in place by major stakeholders in the healthcare vertical. If an entrepreneur tries to introduce the telehealth, some may feel threatened. While growing a telehealth business is a slow but steady process, it may take some time for everyone to be on the same page and understand the financial benefits of investing in telehealth.
The online medical service provider, SteadyMD, uses multiple revenue streams such as subscription fees and others. Its primary revenue stream includes different variations. For instance, there are separate plans for a single patient and family members. A one-hour welcome video call is generally scheduled between patient and doctor. The purpose of the call is to enable the patient to share his health history with the doctor.
The company employees a small in-house team of doctors who answer the queries shared by patients. The primary mode of communication is text chat. For those in need, a face-to-face meeting can be scheduled with a qualified health professional located nearby. Additional features include online prescriptions, fetch results of test reports, second opinions, and others.
The primary revenue stream used by PlushCare is flat-rate cost. To add convenience, the company supports most plans from insurance service providers. Another point achieved through operational excellence is the availability of appointments 24 hours a day. The online prescription feature proves to be quite useful to add convenience. By using this feature, PlushCare can share the online prescription with a pharmacy near the patient’s home.
The “On Demand” way of operating makes DoctorOnDemand stand out from the rest of the crowd. Unlike other online doctor consultation service providers, DoctorOnDemand has no subscription model. There is a flat-rate for those who seek consultation. Other features include coupon code management, patient management, and others. DoctorsOnDemand also accepts insurance cover from a few.
BetterHelp focuses more on implementing a brilliant marketing strategy and adding convenience for the patients. The company employs over 3000 certified healthcare professionals with the primary offering – mental or behavioral health consultation. BetterHelp goes a step further to assist patients by enabling text conversation without any limit to discuss their problems.
To operate a telemedicine website, one has to adhere to different rules and regulations. For example, to start a telemedicine business in the U.S, compliance with HIPAA is essential, and to operate in Canada, compliance with PHIPA is vital.
It is vital to understand what society needs. Conducting market research will give the basic idea of how to proceed forward and establish a telehealth business. Ideally, one may initiate market research by identifying potential partners and studying the competitors.
To separate a new business from the rest of the crowd depends on how well the unique value propositions are defined. Depending on the value propositions, the user experience, customer service, selection of products and services, and more, will vary.
Conducting market research and defining unique value propositions will generate an ample amount of data to create a prototype or a minimum viable product. The prototype and the number of features one wishes to integrate depends entirely on the budget.
Testing the features, experience, interface, and more takes time. Each element of the telehealth website or mobile app has to be bug-free and user-centered. Another essential aspect of imparting a good experience is speed. Test the swiftness of each element to keep the end-user happy.
Once the testing phase is over, consider creating a list of hand-picked users who will gain access to the website or mobile app before everyone else. The feedback of these people matters, and after careful analysis, one may choose to include the learnings on the website or mobile app.
In a telemedicine business model, there are three different types of users. The three types of users are – website owner or admin, doctor, and patient.
The admin manages the telemedicine website. As the owner, he has to take care of everything associated with the website, but the primary duties can be marketing and customer care.
A patient can schedule an online appointment with a doctor. The conversation can happen over video or text.
A separate dashboard is provided for doctors which can be accessed once the doctor successfully completes the sign-up process. A doctor also has management tools to keep track of patients.
The general operational flow is elaborated in the business model diagram below:
Out of several online business models, the marketplace model requires less investment, less time to market, and adds more convenience for the admin. After considering the marketplace model, following three revenue streams are explained which can be implemented by a telehealth business:
The sponsored placement method can be leveraged on different web pages such as homepage, search listing, and more. Using this feature, the admin can charge a fee based on time duration and number of clicks.
The admin can earn commission behind each appointment scheduled with a doctor. The online payment can come directly to the admin, who can then deduct the commission and send the rest to the doctor. One should consider the payment gateway charges as well before finalizing the commission.
The advertisement monetization method is almost similar to the sponsored listing. In this method, specific space is allocated to different webpages for advertisers. To calculate the advertisement fee, pay per click method can be implemented in the telehealth platform.
The details page includes different fields and enables the user to learn more about the doctor. Essential fields include video introduction, language spoken the doctor, availability calendar, area of expertise, direct message capability, and more.
A list page is what the user sees after entering a query in the search bar. Such a page needs to offer advanced filters to assist users in their search and find the best doctor for online consultation. A listing page can include a doctor’s rating, number of lessons delivered, and more.
To successfully schedule an appointment with a doctor, one has to pay for the same. Hence, the need for a payment gateway arises. The usual operational flow is that a user selects the preferred time slot. The user is then taken to the payment page. Once the payment is made, the user is redirected to the confirmation page.
For an online appointment to be successful, the video conferencing tool plays an important role. Other relevant tools that enhance the user experience by bringing ease are – file sharing, collaborative document, text chat, appointment cancellation, and rescheduling.
Initially, it might be challenging for a telehealth business to win the trust of users. To earn the trust and give a glimpse of the service to users, a free consultation can be offered. For example – if a user comes to a telehealth website for the first time, he can be provided 30 minutes of free consultation.
Users can give a gift card to someone who needs a consultation with a doctor regarding any health issue. For marketing, this may work well as people will bring other members of family or friends to the portal. Thus, increasing the overall user base.
An entrepreneur needs to invest time and effort to understand the pain points addressed by a telehealth platform. The current Covid-19 pandemic situation makes it even more important as hospitals and medical staff face difficult times. To enable entrepreneurs make an informed decision, this blog touched different areas of a telehealth business.
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