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Verizon leaps into telehealth—and here's why it could pay off

Verizon is joining in on the telehealth boom: Less than a year after acquiring video conferencing platform BlueJeans, Verizon developed it into a telehealth platform, dubbed BlueJeans Telehealth, that’s launching this May. BlueJeans has been piloted for telehealth via a partnership with Epic, where it developed the telehealth platform’s EHR integration capabilities in October 2020.

Even though telehealth usage is starting to plateau after sky-high growth at the start of the pandemic, consumer interest is still there.

  • Just 11% of consumers had tried telehealth in 2019, but 46% are using it to replace in-person visits canceled due to the pandemic, per the April 2020 McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Survey.
  • And 65% of consumers say they plan to use telehealth after the pandemic ends—so the tech isn’t going away any time soon.

This interest also extends to providers, who are keen to integrate telehealth as a permanent part of their practice. Over 75% of physicians said telehealth enabled them to provide quality care—and 60% said telehealth helped improve the health of their patients, per the 2020 Telehealth Impact Physician Survey. To add, around 50% of providers said telehealth helped the financial health of their practice.

Verizon is hopping on the virtual care train later than other entrants, but it can use its position as a major telecoms provider to hit on some of the biggest limitations to widespread adoption in the US:

  • The connectivity divide is a major pain point that’s blocking many people in the US from accessing telehealth. 80% of physicians reported that they provide telehealth visits via live, interactive video visits for an at-home patient—but over 5% of the US population (18 million people) lack sufficient broadband connection, and that figure jumps to as high as 20.7% in rural areas, per a November 2020 Pew Research article.
  • So, it makes sense for the telecoms giant to make a major telehealth play: Verizon’s simultaneous push into 5G and telehealth is symbiotic. While telehealth platforms like Teladoc and Amwell have strong functional capabilities, Verizon actually provides the foundation of telehealth (internet connection)—which means it's uniquely positioned to upsell its telehealth platform as 5G makes its way across the US.
  • And this isn’t Verizon’s first dalliance with telehealth, which will make its bigger leap into the space less bumpy. In 2019, Verizon teamed up with the VA to support the VA’s telehealth program. Before that, it launched its telehealth product (Virtual Visits) in 2014, and in 2013 it rolled out its FDA-approved remote patient monitoring-enabled mobile health app—both of which were shuttered in 2015 as Verizon reevaluated its telehealth strategy.