Definition: Virtual care, also known as telemedicine or telehealth, is rapidly emerging as a major force in the healthcare industry. This technology allows patients to receive holistic care from a distance using digital tools such as apps, video conferencing, phone calls, and online messaging to connect with healthcare solutions from the palm of their hand with a single log-in.
The rise of virtual care in healthcare aligns with the emergence of web 2.0, a term coined by Tim O'Reilly in his book "What is Web 2.0". Web 2.0 describes the second generation of the World Wide Web, which emphasizes user-generated content, collaboration, and networking.
This is particularly beneficial for patients in rural, remote or underserved areas, who may not have easy access to healthcare solutions. It also allows doctors to provide care to more patients, potentially increasing the efficiency of the healthcare system. Like Web 2.0,virtual care is based on the idea of interoperability and the ability to access and share information resources easily and seamlessly. This connects patients to providers who have a personal relationship with them and understand their holistic history.
It is important to note that the use of virtual care in healthcare is not without its challenges and limitations. For example, there are concerns about the potential for unequal access to care, particularly for underserved populations, and the need for appropriate regulation and oversight. These issues continue to be addressed as virtual care evolves as a transformative force in the healthcare industry.
Like web 2.0, virtual holistic care has the potential to transform the way healthcare is delivered and accessed. It can make healthcare more accessible, efficient, and cost-effective. By enabling patients and families to connect with healthcare solutions remotely, virtual care can remove barriers to care and improve outcomes for patients.
Virtual Care is a market-unconstrained opportunity. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global telemedicine market is expected to reach $130.5 billion by 2025. This growth is driven by several factors, including the increasing availability of broadband internet, the proliferation of mobile devices, expansion of the senior population, and the rising prevalence of chronic diseases.
When a holistic approach is taken and factors such as activities of daily life (ADL) and social determinants of health (SDOH)are factored in, the market size skyrockets and the potential benefits of virtual care expand to all demographics. This could close crucial gaps in care including housing, food, transportation, legal planning, etc.
One of the key themes of web 2.0 was the idea of "network as a service". This concept referred to the idea that web-based services could be delivered over the internet, allowing users to access them from any location. Today the internet is ubiquitous and used everyday by most people. In the world of virtual care, this concept is particularly relevant. By providing patients with the ability to connect with healthcare solutions from anywhere, virtual care can remove and/or augment the need for in-person visits and make healthcare more convenient, accessible, cost effective and expands to all demographics
This shift towards virtual care is similar to the emergence of cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft(Azure) and Google Cloud (GCP) in the tech industry. Each offers new ways to access services, making them more convenient and flexible for users. Like the tech industry, large enterprises with existing master service agreements (MSA) across customer bases, such as UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Walmart, Blue Cross BlueShield and Cardinal Health, should have a particular advantage in this regard.By leveraging their brand, reputation, and relationships, they can distribute next-generation virtual care solutions and transform into participatory organizations. But, like cloud services, where incumbents, like Microsoft, should have taken the market, there are challenges.
Just like web 2.0, early adopters will take the most market share. In the healthcare industry, early adopters of virtual care are likely to gain a competitive advantage by providing patients with access to modern, secure and accessible technology that immediately improves the quality of care. These early adopters will likely also gain access to valuable data and insights that can help drive innovation and improve outcomes.
Web 2.0 emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration. In the world of virtual care, partnerships and collaboration will be key to driving innovation and improving outcomes. By partnering with technology companies, incumbent healthcare providers can access the latest tools and technologies, while technology companies can gain valuable insights into the needs of the healthcare industry. Delivering true consumerism to the healthcare industry will transform the bottom line.
Not all healthcare organizations will be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by virtual care. The"innovator's dilemma," as described by Clayton Christensen, may hold some organizations back. In particular, the temptation to continue focusing on their existing, profitable business model rather than investing in new technologies and partnerships
Bureaucracy and a lack of willingness to partner with the network of third-party solutions may also limit an organization's ability to capitalize on this opportunity. In addition, the temptation to try and build virtual care solutions in-house may lead to costly failures, rather than leveraging the expertise and networks of other companies.Wall Street will take notice…
Those organizations that are able to overcome these obstacles and embrace virtual care innovations will be well-positioned to succeed in the rapidly changing healthcare landscape. Large enterprises with existing market share across customer bases, may have a particular advantage in this regard. However, time will tell if they can overcome challenges to capitalize on this unconstrained market opportunity.
In conclusion, the emergence of virtual care in healthcare is like the rise of web2.0. This technology has the potential to transform the way healthcare is delivered and accessed, and is driven by the idea of network-as-a-service and the importance of early adopters and partnerships. As the market for virtual care continues to grow, it will be important for healthcare providers and technology companies to work together to drive innovation and improve outcomes for patients.
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