With the announcement of Verizon Connected Health Services, the telecommunications company is following on the pioneering work of Dr. Jay Sanders, arguably one of the godfathers of telemedicine, and the contemporary pioneer, American Well.

Datamonitor predicts that the telehealth market will growth from $2.4 billion in 2009 to $6.1 bn in 2012.

Verizon announced the program in a press release yesterday, which said that the business unit will focus on facilitating remote consultations and other programs like continuing medical education through a consultancy, “Telehealth Collaboration Services.” Verizon already has about 500 staff serving customers in the health vertical.

Verizon says it’s already serving 90% of the Fortune 100 health companies. The telehealth program can help Verizon generate more revenue from these customers, along with attracting smaller health providers and stakeholder organizations who seek to connect patients and providers.

Architecturally/strategically, Verizon will look to the cloud to turbocharge telehealth growth — that is, cloud computing that will enable the company to provide managed services as opposed to apps running locally (on the customer’s premises). This model is much more attractive to health providers who don’t want to be in the business of managing complicated IT projects and can also help to manage costs along the telehealth adoption journey.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: First, note the name Verizon chose: “Connected Health” is the branding of the Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners Health led by Dr. Joseph Kvedar in Boston. This name is well-recognized as a telehealth innovator.

Verizon’s expanding in this space at a time of converging drivers that make telehealth a winning proposition:
  • Third-party payers’ increasing reimbursement for remote consultations.
  • The need to expand access for specialist services to un- and under-served communities.
  • The growth of retail health — consumers’ personal demand for more convenience and access to first- and second-opinions, and openness to pay out-of-pocket for some health services under new payment regimes.
  • The dropping price of technology and, simultaneously, the growth of cloud computing that is a cost-effective platform for telehealth.
I’m especially keen to see how Verizon can leverage its consumer-facing brand name and morph toward the retail telehealth space.