Telehealth is shining. Will it burn out? A conversation with PwC's Ben Isgur

  
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Welcome to Unlisted, a new newsletter/podcast from Jeff Byers, founder of Magnet Coil Media.

Yes, I do think there’s room for one more healthcare newsletter.

For those of you that subscribed to my last newsletter, this is a bit of a rebrand (though you can still read my interview with author Chris L. Terry here). In the wake of being laid off due to COVID-19 in early April, I took some time off and decided to make a go at providing editorial services and content strategy for healthcare companies.

Currently, business is good. But, I just can’t quit the newsletter game.

Unlisted is meant to focus on the various bits of healthcare I’m interested in: access to delivery services, telehealth/preventative services, social drivers, public health/behaviors, and how messaging and communications affect and inform the industry.

Ideally, it’ll touch on culture and industry issues. You’ll hear from voices inside and outside the healthcare industry. For this first issue, I’ll write a bit about telehealth. Up top, you may have noticed a podcast episode. It’s an interview with PwC Health Research Institute’s Ben Isgur who was kind enough to chat with me about the recent healthcare industry layoffs as well as the mainstreaming of telehealth.

My hope is publish weekly — and produce a mid-length audio interview each Tuesday. I have three interviews in addition to my conversation with Ben, including an interview with Out of Pocket founder Nikhil Krishnan.

This newsletter will be free for now — but that could change. Perhaps I’ll add ads or begin a paid version with gated content. But that’s not the focus right now. Ultimately, I’m hoping to promote my editorial and content strategy services with this newsletter.

And, interviewing people is fun. I’ve found editing interviews has been an engaging activity during this pandemic.

Speaking of, I recently interviewed Dr. Erich Heneke from Mayo Clinic for Gist Healthcare to discuss PPE supply and demands for the health system. You can listen to that here.

Want to have a conversation? Have a white paper you need to produce? Shoot me an email at jeff@magnetcoilmedia.com.

If you’re a healthcare company and can guess the band I’m referencing with the title of this podcast/newsletter, I will write you a free blog. You can guess only once. This offer is limited to one (1) correct answer/winner.

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16.5 million.

According to a recent PwC HRI consumer survey, that’s the number of how many Americans have possibly used telehealth for the first time in the past couple of months. The survey found 5% of respondents said they or a family member has tried telehealth for the first time during the COVID-19.

Telehealth is an overnight success story in these times of social isolation. But it isn’t a new concept. Far from it. I used to work for a health IT publication from 2009 to 2012 and tried to hunt down the old books as I was curious what I wrote about telehealth during that time.

However, I packed up my old printed magazines because I’m a very smart person that decided to move during a pandemic. Anyways, you’ll have to take my word for it that they probably said “Yea, idk, no one’s really using it and/or understands it. We’re just figuring out what a smartphone is out here.”

So, telehealth has been baking for awhile now. And it’s grown. Teladoc, one of the companies that started with a telehealth focus, is now a public company. AmWell was recently named to the 2019 Forbes Cloud 100.

But, before COVID-1, telehealth adoption had been pretty slow all said and told. In July 2019, FAIR Health released a white paper that found telehealth utilization rates of less than 1%.

Now, it seems the narrative is changing.

Insurers and providers, digital health companies, and legacy EHR companies all agree. Telehealth utilization is increasing.

Some telehealth providers are already taking advantage of less restrictive Medicare regulations for telehealth reimbursement.

Just because people are being advised to practice social distancing doesn’t mean people aren’t getting sick. In our interview, Isgur mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is the forcing function that will help mainstream telehealth as patients are more or less being forced to use that option.

I’m a fan of the idea of telehealth, and given the aforementioned less than 1% utilization, any increase in usage is good. What will remain to be seen is if and how this adoption continues or increases as states begin to reopen. Telehealth as a care delivery option could fade into the background for many. Or it could become a preferred choice of first-touch care.

I don’t pretend to know what the future holds but if the past tells us anything, it’s that adopting new ideas/platforms/tech can be hard if they don’t fit a current need or made simple to use. Here’s hoping the next wave of telehealth won’t take another decade to emerge.

That’s it for this edition. Here’s two articles I recently read on telehealth and a weekly Spotify playlist:

'There's been a paradigm shift': Telemedicine lobbying soars nearly 200% in push to capitalize on coronavirus pandemic and make permanent changes to Washington policy (Business Insider - paywalled)

Transforming telemedicine to combat a health crisis (Financial Times)

Thanks for reading! Unlisted is a publication of Magnet Coil Media LLC.

Got tips? Feedback? Want to hear about a particular topic or interview anyone in particular? Drop me a line at jeff@magnetcoilmedia.com.