Telehealth opportunities were on the rise before a global pandemic sent everyone home. After COVID-19 hit, though, what was already a promising industry evolved into a necessity. Not only was it more convenient to consult medical professionals from home, but patients also wanted to avoid exposing themselves to unnecessary risks in the outside world.
As life begins to emerge again, telehealth promises to continue its upward trajectory. Some people may not feel comfortable returning to doctor’s offices for years, while others have grown to prefer the convenience of at-home healthcare. Telehealth got its big break in 2020, and all signs point toward a sustained entrepreneurial boom in off-Broadway medicine.
Entrepreneurs who aspire to claim a piece of this exciting market face plenty of danger amid the opportunities. Healthcare can be a delicate field at the best of times. Add digital complexities to the mix, and the situation becomes daunting enough to ward off all but the most tenacious innovators.
Tenacity will lead to incredible success, though, especially for those who seize this opportunity now. Whether you want to grow your existing telehealth business or you’re exploring potential ideas for a new company, use this roadmap to make your path toward telehealth superiority as straightforward as possible.
1. Understand your position of authority.
Are you a doctor planning to provide telehealth care in a private practice? Are you an entrepreneur looking to help medical professionals and patients connect more easily? Do you have experience with deep data and want to use that knowledge to create an infrastructure for the future of medicine? Perhaps you have an idea that could disrupt the supply chain of pharmaceuticals?
The growing world of telehealth needs all kinds to flourish. Doctors need technical providers who build and maintain reliable, user-friendly tools. Distributors need startups to fill in the gaps and make telehealth as viable as a trip to the pharmacy. Nurx, for example, has disrupted the birth control and sexual health space by providing new ways to connect patients to the care they need and is now poised to expand into migraine care in the same way. Understand your position of authority so you can recognize the spaces where you are best positioned to help.
2. Identify and verify your product-market fit.
Some of the smartest people in the world already work in medicine. Many of those people will attempt to create telehealth companies during this time, and many of them will fail. Why? Because failure to create product-market fit is one of the most common killers of startups today.
Never fall in love with your solution. Instead, become a fanatic about solving the problem your target users experience. What issues are doctors running into that could be alleviated with some aspect of telehealth? CNBC recently featured healthcare startup Myia Health and their partnership with Mercy Virtual. Their platform connects data from wearable devices at home to the doctors monitoring them at a hospital. This allows doctors to track patients with chronic conditions like heart failure, diabetes, and more which helps them to potentially prevent future hospitalizations. This aspect of telehealth gives the doctor more information than ever before, and gives patients the freedom from being monitored in a hospital bed.
Whatever form your business takes, remember that you are not the hero of your story: your customers are. Keep that in mind as you build your solution and be willing to change your vision to suit reality.
3. Insulate your business from legal trouble.
When it comes to telemedicine, HIPAA laws are the gold standard, but they’re also just the tip of the iceberg regarding compliance. Operating a telehealth business can open you up to all sorts of legal difficulties ranging from medical malpractice to data security.
Before you start or scale your company, get trustworthy legal help involved. Depending on the size and nature of your operation, you may want to bring legal assistance in house. Hiring a head of legal may not be a cheap proposition, but doing so could insulate your business from far more expensive troubles, like lawsuits with the power to cripple your growing business. Laws vary by area, so make sure your legal experts understand local, federal, and perhaps even international law to keep you protected.
4. Start working closely with insurance companies.
Health insurance providers run the show in the U.S. healthcare world. Patients often refuse to go out of network, and when they do, they want to know that their chosen providers will make it easy for them to file paperwork and avoid unwanted expenses. From doctors to data scientists, everyone in healthcare needs to know the player in insurance.
No matter what part of the telehealth ecosystem you inhabit, your work will touch insurance companies to some degree. Your data will go to insurance companies, or your video call recordings will be used to review cases. You may even target the insurance companies themselves as your ideal customers. The closer you get to these entities early, the more opportunities you will find for your new telehealth business. Treat them like your customers, even if they aren’t, to get on their good side and understand how you can make the process easier for them.
Laws will continue to evolve in favor of telehealth as more people around the world choose to get their care remotely. Your telehealth business could become the next big thing in medicine, but before you go chasing that dream, use this opportunity to protect yourself from trouble, establish the validity of your business model, and position your operation for success. If you get it right, you and your company can ride the wave of an industry that is just now beginning to realize its true potential.