RelyMD, based in Cary, announced on June 3 that it had merged with MYidealDOCTOR. Both companies had separately practiced telehealth, and together they will now expand their digital healthcare options.
The Background: What is Telehealth?
Relias (a Morrisville-based health-performance firm) defines telehealth this way: “the delivery of healthcare services using digital technology.” In practice, that delivery can include smartphones, desktop computers and mobile apps. It includes plenty of activities that structure and sustain healthcare objectives: physician access through videoconferences, online patient assessment, activity tracking through mobile apps, and more.
Because the Research Triangle houses a wealth of medical and tech research, telehealth has already appeared there. For instance, Durham medtech company Validic received an industry award for its telemedicine practices back on May 20. The MedTech Breakthrough Awards gave Validic the “Best Hospital Technology Implementation” award for the Validic Impact program. After all, Validic Impact (a remote patient-monitoring program which streamlines at-home care) added 30,000 patients within two years. Its remote platform supported the treatment of diabetes, heart failure and hypertension, all while the patients remained at home.
RelyMD Merged to Expand and Improve Its Telehealth Coverage
“The healthcare needs of communities and workplaces have changed; and this merger enables us to better partner with our customers to meet the evolving needs of today’s patients and consumers,” said RelyMD CEO David Levin. The two companies had each maintained their own spheres of medical reach. RelyMD offers virtual programs for communal patients, post-acute care patients and employee health packages. Now, with MYidealDOCTOR as its newest solution, it can also provide non-urgent medical care, greater access to primary physicians, treatments for traveling patients, and other treatment avenues.
Not to mention that RelyMD will now also connect with ApolloMD, a prestigious hospital-service firm. This new partnership will likely support expanded telehealth practices, according to ApolloMD President Yogan Patel, MD. “Our health system and hospital partners have increasingly embraced telehealth, and as a trusted partner to those organizations, we are excited to bring more innovative services that enable them to better serve their communities,” he said.
New Telehealth Options Serve Patients During COVID-19
Because North Carolina’s shelter-at-home policies have slowed (and will slow) many in-person medical visits, telehealth options remain a growing alternative suited to social distancing. RTI International explains that, while only 18% of survey respondents were using telehealth in 2018, more than 50% were using telehealth by May 2020. Sage Growth Partners and Black Book Market Research reported similar results in March 2020: “Only 25% of [survey] respondents have used telehealth previously,” but “59% are more likely to use telehealth now than previously.” And 36% of those respondents answered that they would change their doctor to access virtual medical care.
Beyond what people think of telehealth, some of its applications have already benefitted North Carolina residents during quarantine. North Carolina Health News reported that telemedicine spread through some rural areas, though poor broadband restricted its reach. The NC Dept. of Health and Human Services even used telehealth to reach the foster children left isolated and vulnerable by stay-at-home orders.
However, the future of telehealth coverage and options remains unclear.
RTI International notes that fewer social-distancing restrictions in North Carolina’s Phase 3 could slow telehealth’s expansion. If people return to face-to-face care, virtual care would decline. However, Business North Carolina glowingly profiled Keona Health for its opportunity to succeed with telehealth care in Chapel Hill. Since COVID-19, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has encouraged greater access to telehealth care options. Keona has doubled its revenue every year since 2015. That certainly suggests that telemedicine holds lucrative promise. So does the Global Market Insights report that predicts the telemedicine market’s worth at $175.5 billion by 2026. This promise could come to pass, but for now, that outcome will likely depend on future COVID-19 developments.