Telemedicine services providers, Teledoc Health, Inc. (NYSE: TDOC) and Livongo Health, Inc. (NASDAQ: LVGO), have agreed to an $18.5 billion dollar merger. The two companies expect to finalize the deal by the fourth quarter of 2020 – integrating Livongo’s cutting-edge technology with Teledoc’s robust remote services. Teledoc offers consumers an alternative to in-person visits for most minor ailments. When incorporated into a full service health care plan, it provides nearly instantaneous diagnosis and treatment. Users schedule a call – which usually comes within the hour – and describe their problem to a qualified medical professional. The doctor in question can even go as far as prescribing medicine, should it be appropriate.
Livongo’s service expands on this idea by providing hardware and software to remotely manage chronic conditions.Initially focusing on diabetes, they have expanded to related problems – including hypertension. This technology can help bolster some of the weaknesses of telemedicine. Remote availability of accurate biometric data will allow doctors to make better-informed care decisions.
The Emergence of Telemedicine
As with many remote services, Telemedicine did not come about solely due to the recent pandemic. Teledoc itself began business in 2002. However, rapidly increasing technology and a global shift towards remote services buoyed their fortunes. Remote health services are not solely a boon to patients, either. Doctors often supplement their income by providing consultations over the phone –a far more laid back process than their day-to-day life.
That infrastructure became critical in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. As states implemented lockdown measures, Telemedicine provided a necessary lifeline for non-COVID related medical issues. While it cannot completely solve the sudden lack of in-person services, it certainly mitigated what could have been an absolute disaster.
Drawbacks to Remote Health
Telemedicine offers amazing benefits, when used in conjunction with traditional services. Yet, there are weaknesses present that current technology cannot rectify. Livongo’s efforts are bridging the gap, but expensive medical equipment remains an in-person amenity. This is also assuming that the patient in question even has the basic internet necessary to use the service – many rural locations do not. Beyond even that, remote services result in laser-focused diagnosis. They rely on the ability of the patient to properly describe and identify the problems they are experiencing.
As a cheaper option, when compared against traditional visits, healthcare providers will push telemedicine as a viable alternative. In that omnipresent race to the bottom, many at-risk patients could be pressured to accept services that are insufficient to them. Teledoc would do well to continue safeguarding their patients by preventing overuse.
Article By: Adam Stone