Telemedicine has reached a tipping point in American health care, according to Jason Gorevic, CEO of Teladoc Health.
“The demand has shifted forever on virtual care, and we’re on the verge of a new era for virtual care in the health-care system,” he told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Monday.
Teladoc, a health technology provider that connects doctors with patients remotely, saw a substantial boost in daily visits in the United States as the coronavirus grew into a global pandemic. The company is expecting even more demand after the Trump administration on Wednesday announced that it would begin allowing Medicare recipients to use telemedicine for no additional cost.
“It’s fortunate that we’re able to be here for the American people during this crisis,” Gorevic said in the “Mad Money” interview.
Teladoc has focused its services during the coronavirus outbreak on virtual “COVID clinics” for health-system clients and on limiting health-care workers’ exposure to sick patients, Gorevic said. The service is particularly helpful as health professionals say that there are not enough medical supplies, including protective face masks for health-care workers, to go around.
The coronavirus has infected nearly 43,000 people and led to nearly 580 deaths in the U.S. as of Monday afternoon, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“We’re certainly seeing a significant increase in volume, and I didn’t exactly expect the president to be talking at a White House press briefing about telehealth,” he said. “If you’d asked me that a few months ago, I would have said that’s pretty unlikely.”
As the health crisis began to grip health systems on nearly every continent, capable workers have been ordered to work from home, students to study online and residents to limit their time outside of their homes. In the U.S., states have ordered nonessential businesses to close their offices as health officials attempt to slow the spread of the deadly disease and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by emergency visits, in what’s known as “flattening the curve.”
The near halt in global activity has led to an increase in internet usage, allowing companies such as Teladoc and Zoom Video Communications to serve the public with their remote connection tools. With most people steering clear of hospitals and doctor’s offices to reduce their chances of getting sick, Teladoc earlier this month said patient visit volume spiked 50% in a week-over-week comparison.
The company said it coordinated 100,000 patient visits in the United States during the week of March 8, which helped take pressure off the health-care system. More than half of its visits this month have been from first-time users.
“The whole system is definitely under strain, and we’re happy to work with our hospital system clients, health plans and others to try to meet the incredible increase in demand,” Gorevic said.
With that increased demand, Teladoc shares have also gone up. The stock has surged more than 43% to $167.44 since its March 16 close, including an 18% increase in Monday’s session alone.