The lockdown and physical distancing restrictions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have created an international showcase opportunity for the telemedicine industry. Telecommunication service companies (Telcos) are launching new services to directly address the public’s need for virtual doctor consultations during the lockdown period with other services adjusted or streamlined to help in the diagnosis and treatment of suspected COVID-19 cases, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
GlobalData analyzed ten commercially available direct Business-to-Customer (B2C) health services from companies providing telcos and found some broad, common trends in their business models, partnership structure and overall customer proposition.
Telco direct B2C telemedicine and health services tend to be simple in structure and, in many cases, are limited to distance consultations to treat the broad spectrum of non-emergency illnesses, including the diagnosis of suspected COVID-19 cases.
On the B2B side, many carriers are already deeply entrenched in IT solutions and platforms for the medical and hospital industries. Several are already well established in providing the secure data exchange platforms, telecommunication solutions and other tools for the broad ecosystem of medical services, pharmacists, hospitals and insurance providers required to treat a single patient, such as Swisscom’s Evita platform.
Emma Mohr-McClune, Service Director at GlobalData, comments: “Some operators are going further, especially in response to the global pandemic, with direct-to-consumer, telco-branded or co-branded telemedicine services for video or telephone medical consultations. These solutions include either discounts or incentives for their own network customers or available on a broader basis on a range of subscriptions or premium models.”
Carriers can add their own particular value to consumer digital health services with the offer of direct billing for one-off or subscription fees to facilitate easier payment for their customers. For the most part, carriers will need to partner in order to offer remote medical consultation and assistance services, given the complexity of the ecosystem and the high degree of expertise involved. Carriers should look to leverage their own innovation and R&D activities to uncover start-ups and other ventures that they can then invest in and partner with to develop and deploy digital health assistance platforms which can be offered to own-brand customers or potentially white-labelled or differentiated for B2B portfolios.
Mohr-McClune adds: “To be sure, the sheer complexity of the health industry – with its broad and particularly data-sensitive ecosystem serving a multitude of health and emergency use cases – makes telemedicine a particularly challenging direct B2C service opportunity for telcos, and there have been several high-profile failures in this domain to date.
“However, the strong use case in providing remote health consultation services to a mass market practicing social distancing will cause many strategists to revisit the sector as a future value added service (VAS) opportunity and consideration.”