Productizing Telemedicine Services to Push Beyond the Linear Growth of Traditional Telehealth Services

By Iain Fitzpatrick

It has been fascinating to witness the evolution of telehealth services over the past few years. Today, thanks to welcome changes to regulations, healthcare providers turn to productizing telemedicine services to accommodate patient demand. In this article, I cover the changing landscape of healthcare, including two examples of organizations that productized their services to push beyond the linear growth of traditional telehealth services.

The Covid-19 public health emergency allowed for more telemedicine policy flexibility.

When lockdowns and mandates cancelled non-emergent surgeries and closed the offices of doctors, dentists, and related health providers for months at a time, governments quickly responded by lifting longstanding barriers to the good faith provision of telehealth services. Most notably, HIPAA regulations were relaxed, allowing covered health care providers to use widely available communications applications – as long as they were non-public facing – without the risk of penalties imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights for HIPPA violations. Suddenly, healthcare providers were meeting with patients using applications such as Facetime, Facebook video chat, Google hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Signal, Jabber, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

Equally significant were flexibilities and waivers announced by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. For the first time, health care providers could offer a vastly expanded list of telehealth services to patients located in their homes and outside of designated rural areas. Medicare & Medicaid would also reimburse for these services – even across state lines, where state licensure laws permitted it. Even licensure laws began radically shifting; throughout 2021, more states adopted interstate compacts that allow healthcare providers to practice in states they are not licensed in as long as they hold a license in good standing in their home state.

The evolution of telemedicine services

The use of telehealth services showed a 154% increase in March 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. At the same time, adoption by medical and healthcare-related services providers and their patients was fast – and not just in primary and specialty medical care. Use of telehealth for mental health increased nationally from 11% in 2019 to 39% in 2021, the latest KFF and Epic Research shows. Dentistry also saw tremendous adoption. According to a 2020 survey of 2800 dental providers across 20 states, 23% of dental providers now see patients using a teledentistry or virtual platform (such as DigiBite, which offers virtual dentist visits); the survey also showed that 75% of dentists using them expect their practices will see steady or increased reliance these technologies going forward.

Going forward, there’s no going back to the way things were.

Clearly, accelerated use of telemedicine during the pandemic has been a lifeline – especially those with chronic conditions and for independent physician practices crushed by lockdowns. While some changes will expire or be rolled back, federal and state legislators are under pressure to codify the flexibilities granted during the COVID-19 pandemic that increased access to telehealth services into law.

Bills such as such as the Cures 2.0 bill, the Connect for Health Act, the Telehealth Extension Act, and the Telemental Health Care Access Act will make the emergency waivers permanent and even expand them.

Deregulation unleashes a next wave of innovation – and it’s growing.

Given these legislative trends, innovators today invest in making telehealth more scalable and profitable by productizing aspects of their services. By embedding a product within an existing service, healthcare providers reduce the time and cost needed to deliver it, scale their delivery capacity, and push beyond the linear growth rate of traditional services. This involves:

  • Looking for patterns in existing services where tasks are executed repeatedly and negatively impact overall productivity.
  • Evaluating which tasks best suit productization by categorizing them according to how frequently they are performed, and the intelligence and skill required.
  • Developing software products that automate low level, high frequency tasks and adding analytics so it can automatically and continuously improve itself.
  • Changing the monetization model of the service to capture the value of the embedded product.

Typically, the new product is sold as part of the service, and the value created by the new product is shared between your business and its customers. So, the new value proposition must be centered around the “job” that the customer is hiring the service to do. If it does the job well, the customer is much more likely to hire that productized service again. In the case of healthcare services, examples of jobs to be done include:

  • Follow-up consultations and visits: Patients need a convenient way to access lab results (via a portal) and discuss lab results (with a virtual consultation).
  • Monitoring of non-critical chronic conditions: This is especially needed for people living in rural areas who need frequent check-ins with their doctor to manage their condition.

Productizing telemedicine services: Industry innovators are boldly moving ahead to harness new market opportunities.

An international innovation hub to accelerate the development of new technologies

Companies are boldly leaping ahead with the productization of existing, successful services launched during the pandemic. Consider, for example, a large international developer and distributor of clinically validated assessments that wanted to streamline operational efforts and drive innovation in service delivery. The company’s existing infrastructure was fragmented and created redundant business structures and processes.

Archetype partnered with this organization to launch and operate an internal innovation hub, which led to the development of new technologies, reapplied existing IP in new products for new markets, and created significant core operational improvements. For example, they worked together to build an innovative product for mental health screening in the wellness industry, an area of opportunity identified through Archetype’s due diligence process. The product introduced a way for the partner to remix and repurpose IP efficiently and in a way they had never done before. This approach also significantly improved the partner’s scalability and reach, as they have successfully deployed these technologies across a network of 10,000 providers.

Providing members with easy access to a robust network of partners

Similarly, one of the nation’s premier resources for workplace wellness initiatives and solutions had a robust network of partners providing wellness solutions and an effective process for members to identify their unique areas of improvement. However, their members sometimes struggled to find the best solution to address those issues. The company needed to help members easily access information to help guide their decision-making. This would require scaling access to their existing asset – a partner network with significant expertise – to enhance the experience for their members and partners. Achieving this would ultimately help the company drive more revenue.

The company and Archetype partnered to identify opportunities to enhance stakeholder relations in its existing go-to market strategy and then collaborated to build a software platform to capture these opportunities. This platform enhanced the company’s brand experience and democratized client access to its partner network by aggregating and productizing existing assets into a database. At the same time, it streamlined the user experience, enabled linear product integration and, network connectivity, and facilitated marketing opportunities and proprietary data collection.

Now is the time for other companies to do the same.

These examples showcase how more traditional healthcare and wellness businesses are modernizing their business models by productizing telemedicine services to reach more patients, drive revenues, and take their business into the future.

Contact the Archetype consulting team to learn more about productizing telemedicine services.

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