Telemedicine: A (Partial) Solution To Healthcare Problems

by: Richard Richter

Telemedicine use is on the rise. According to GlobalData study, the worldwide telehealth and telemedicine market will grow at a compound rate of 14 percent between 2011 and 2018 to $32.6 billion.

A major driver of the telemedicine market is the nationwide shortage of medical specialists, including radiologists, neurologists, dermatologists, even primary care physicians. These shortages will only grow more acute as the Affordable Care Act brings millions more potential insured patients into the national healthcare system. Doctor's office and emergency room visits are the most expensive ways to monitor and care for these chronic conditions. That's why remote patient monitoring devices and software, which collect data from glucometers, blood pressure monitors, pacemakers and other monitoring devices at the patient's home or elsewhere and send them to central monitoring systems for interpretation, are growing dramatically in use.

Not only does remote patient monitoring reduce the costs of chronic care, it has been shown to improve outcomes. Busy patients can be monitored more frequently to prevent emergency room visits; alerts can be triggered and sent to doctors, nurses or even first responders automatically when measurements exceed defined thresholds; and doctors and patients can look at graphical histories, medical advice and other valuable feedback. Reminders can also be sent to mobile phones so patients don't forget when it's time to get a reading.

What's more, as virtual doctor visit services - connecting patients from their homes with physicians via an online video feed becomes more commonplace, insurers and self insured employers would be more amenable to cover their costs. For example, WellPoint Inc., (WLP) the nation's second biggest health insurer, recently announced plans to offer a new service, which allows people to consult with doctors using video-enabled devices.

Remote patient monitoring has also moved into intensive care units. Here rural, or other hospitals, that can't afford internal 24-hour specialized intensive care visits, can take advantage of expert services that monitor patients' vital signs remotely from many hospitals simultaneously.

A number of companies capitalized on these developments. Thus, GlobalMed, the worldwide leader in the development and integration of the new generation of healthcare delivery systems, jumped 64 places in the 2012 Deloitte Technology Fast 500™, the pre-eminent technology awards program in North America, and is ranked as the Number 58 company. In 2011, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company debuted on the list at Number 122. Its 2,533% growth in revenues from 2007 to 2012 propelled it into second place among the fastest growing firms in Deloitte's "Medical Device" category and to the seventh place in "Healthcare" category. GlobalMed Founder and Managing Director Joel E. Barthelemy credits his company's growth to increased demand for affordable quality solutions in healthcare.

iRobot Corporation (NASDAQ:IRBT) is a company that has already made a breakthrough in the industry. Its recently FDA approved RP-VITA navigation robot (RP-Vita stands for remote presence virtual and independent telemedicine assistant), is a device that serves as a remote doctor to patients in rooms and is fully compatible with an iPad interface. The technology will help monitor patients in preoperative and post surgical settings. In the first quarter of 2013 iRobot expects revenue between $102 million and $104 million, earnings per share of $0.16 to $0.20, and adjusted EBITDA of $10 million to $12 million.

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From a revenue perspective, the technology should sell well in hospitals. Its technology will cost $4,000 to $6,000 a month according to When considering the costs saving to hospital in lowering their labor costs the $6,000 monthly fee is quite low.

Taking another route, Capital Group Holdings, Inc. (OTCPK:CGHC) put emphasis on the build-out and programming of its technology platform for the delivery of medical services to its subscribers. It operates an online medical membership program called OneHealthPass, Inc., a business that offers cardholders access to certified doctors online and over the phone 24 hours a day and permits them to receive prescriptions for allergies, cold, flu, sinus problems and other such non-emergency ailments. While generating monthly membership revenues, the initiative also aims 1) to obviate the need for superfluous visits to their clinics, thereby freeing up the clinic's physicians to deal with the genuinely urgent (and more profitable) cases, and 2) to build brand loyalty and thereby steer members to the company's own urgent care centers when the need arises, rather than to hospital emergency wards or competing clinics.

Another program, One Health Urgent Care Inc. uses state of the art technology, a virtually paperless environment and electronic health records (CCHIT certified) coupled with doctors, board certified providers and staff, it is able to consistently beat the national average for patient wait times and maintain a nearly 100% patient satisfaction rating. This program increased revenue by 36% in the last quarter 2012 in comparison with year earlier. As a result, for the quarter ended December 31st, for Capital Group Holdings revenue jumped over 240% from the previous quarter, while gross profits increased by better than 300%.

Rapid growth of this industry provides also an expanding market for companies specializing in software services for telemedicine. One of them is Authentidate Holding Corp.(NASDAQ:ADAT), which offers Inscrybe Healthcare, a Web-based workflow automation solution that enables to exchange and track a range of documents, certificates, and authorizations; Inscrybe Office, a Web-based service to sign, seal, and confirm receipt of documents over the Web; and AuthentiProof, a content integrity and time-and-date stamp application. Authentidate's telehealth solutions combine patient monitoring with a web-based application that streamlines patient care management. Delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS), customers only require an Internet connection and web browser to access web-based applications thereby utilizing previous investments in systems and technology. As a result, it added Department of Veteran Affairs to the long list of its customers and increased revenues in the last quarter by 59% in comparison with the previous year. Recently Autenticare and Fastrack Healthcare Systems made an agreement to provide development updates and support for an interface between Authentidate's Inscrybe Referral and Order Management solution and the Fastrack Enterprise System.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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