I’ll be honest. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac.
Maybe not according to the clinical definition, but I’ve never been hesitant to go to a doctor or urgent care if I’m concerned about something.
I’ve been saying for some time that the way we visit doctors is been dated. It’s ready to be done in new and innovative ways.
Who wants to sit in a crowded waiting room with people coughing on you?
Who wants to take a half day off work only to be told to go home, pick up antibiotics on the way, and then rest?
Just a few months ago, this was the typical doctor visit. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on this non-ideal system, and we’re already seeing what the “new normal” will be.
The ability to see your doctor via your phone or computer has always been convenient, but it has never been so important. It’s a hypergrowth mega-trend I’ve followed for years, and it’s garnered a ton of attention over the last couple of months.
Even one of the world’s largest and most important companies is quietly moving into telemedicine …
It’s no surprise that the pandemic has thrust this industry into the spotlight. It’s giving us a glimpse of how technology will evolve in the future — from drone deliveries to robotics to telemedicine.
With stay-at-home orders in place around the world, we’re getting accustomed to doing more and more from the comfort of our own homes and venturing out as little as possible. And doctor visits are no exception.
Longtime readers of MoneyWire know that I have talked about telemedicine for years. I recommended Teladoc (NYSE:TDOC) to my Investment Opportunities subscribers more than two years ago, and we’re sitting on spectacular 340% gains.
If you haven’t heard of Teladoc yet, you will soon. It is the world’s leading provider of virtual healthcare. It dominates 75% of the market, offers more than 450 medical specialties, and completed 4.1 million visits worldwide in 2019.
The company’s platform can handle 50,000 visits per day — 5X the capacity in 2019. Plus, it can accommodate 100 million members, far more than 36.7 million just last year. And this is only the beginning. According to Plushcare, a concierge online doctor service, 12 million virtual visits were conducted last year … but that only accounted for 2% of the total 600 million “addressable visits.” Telehealth represented just 0.2% of all medical claims filed in 2019.
That leaves room for massive growth in the years ahead. IBISWorld says the U.S. telemedicine market — everything from software to medical devices to hardware — should hit $2.6 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, Teladoc believes the total addressable market (TAM) in the U.S. is closer to $30 billion!
COVID-19 has shifted this trend into overdrive.
Judith Faulkner, CEO of healthcare software and telemedicine provider Epic, said that the company has already seen 50X-100X more video visits compared to the months before the pandemic.
“It’s just huge,” Faulkner said. “We’re seeing people go from 20 a week to 6,000 a week.”
At Sanford Health, one of the largest rural healthcare systems, more than 1,600 patients now use telemedicine per day compared to an average of 50 per day in February.
It’s important to know that telemedicine isn’t just talking to your doctor on a screen. Health professionals can also monitor their patients remotely. Faulkner believes this is another trend that will increase in the new normal. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic used Epic’s software to continue monitoring coronavirus patients after they were sent home. As the breakthrough 5G network rolls out — and opens up huge investment opportunities — remote capabilities will expand dramatically.
Then there is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). One of the largest and most influential companies in the world has been quietly moving into telemedicine. In fact, I believe Apple will be considered a healthcare company first and foremost within the next 10 years.
Apple’s healthcare division is expected to generate $313 billion in revenue by 2027. A lot of this has to do with its popular Apple Watch. The watch and its health tracking features received FDA approval in 2018, and since then the device has been being incorporated into healthcare plans and major medical facilities.
I believe the Apple Watch will eventually turn into an early detection medical device that can relay important data to your doctor. (Here again, 5G changes the game.) It can already track your heartbeat and conduct an electrocardiogram, which will alert you if your heart rhythm is abnormal — potentially saving lives. I wear my Apple Watch every day.
Over in China, telemedicine has become more prevalent amid the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and Ping An Good Doctor have begun offering their telemedicine services for free to encourage those with non-life-threatening and non-coronavirus-related illnesses to stay out of crowded hospitals and doctors’ offices.
The efforts are working. Alibaba saw more than 400,000 patients from Hubei — the province whose capital is Wuhan, the coronavirus’ place of origin — in just the first two days after offering its free services! Ping An has seen similar results, reporting a 10X increase in the number of newly registered users.
This is just a small glimpse of what the new normal will look like in many places around the world, including here in the United States.
As states begin to reopen, people will remain hesitant to visit a doctor’s office or hospital. So rather than putting on their masks and gloves, they can relax on the couch and chat with their doctor on their phone or computer screen. It’s that simple!
Telemedicine is also increasingly recognized by the insurance industry, which is critical for any healthcare breakthrough. Twenty-nine state Medicaid programs currently offer reimbursements for telemedicine — up from just seven in 2013.
Everything points to massive growth in telemedicine in the coming years. It’s only a matter of time before the preferred method of conducting check-ups is virtual. No more stuffy sitting rooms. No more excessive waiting times. And best of all, no more spreading germs. Teladoc is the big player, but I have my eye on other emerging opportunities as well.
Matthew McCall left Wall Street to actually help investors — by getting them into the world’s biggest, most revolutionary trends BEFORE anyone else. The power of being “first” gave Matt’s readers the chance to bank +2,438% in Stamps.com (STMP), +1,523% in Ulta Beauty (ULTA) and +1,044% in Tesla (TSLA), just to name a few. Click here to see what Matt has up his sleeve now. Matt does not directly own the aforementioned securities.