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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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Teladoc Reports $13.7B Loss for 2022, Just Two Years after Livongo Acquisition

Loss could indicate an industrywide slowdown in digital health adoption and suggests medical laboratories will want to continue developing a virtual care strategy

Only two years after Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) completed acquisition of Livongo, a data-based health coaching company, the virtual healthcare provider reported a 2022 net loss of $13.7 billion, a company press release announced.

The loss, which has been described as “historic,” is “mostly from a write-off related to the plummeting value of its Livongo acquisition. … By comparison, in 2021 [just a year earlier], Teladoc posted a net loss of $429 million,” Fierce Healthcare reported.

However, during Teladoc’s fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Jason Gorevic said, “We are pleased with the strong fourth quarter and full-year operating results. Despite a challenging macro environment, we were able to expand our product offerings and enhance the level of care delivered across our integrated whole-person platform.” Teladoc Health’s 2022 revenue was $2,406,840 compared to $2,032,707 in 2021. That’s an 18% increase over last year’s revenue, according to the earnings report. Nevertheless, a month before the earnings call Teladoc laid off 300 non-clinician employees, Fierce Healthcare noted.

Jason Gorevic

“Teladoc Health has been at the forefront of the adoption curve, and we believe that our scale, breadth of product offering, and proven outcomes will enable us to maintain and expand our position in the market,” said Teladoc Health CEO Jason Gorevic during February’s earnings call. Clinical laboratory leaders may view the company’s $13B loss as indication that adoption in telehealth by physicians, healthcare providers, and patients of digital-based health services is not happening as swiftly has been predicted. (Photo copyright: The Business Journals.) 

Predictions in Telehealth Adoption Fall Short

Teladoc Health, based in Purchase, New York, acquired Livongo of Mountain View, California, in October 2020 for $18.5 billion. 

A news release at that time declared that the merger was “a transformational opportunity to improve the delivery, access, and experience of healthcare for consumers around the world.

“The highly complementary organizations,” the release stated, “will combine to create substantial value across the healthcare ecosystem, enabling clients everywhere to offer high quality, personalized, technology-enabled longitudinal care that improves outcomes and lowers costs across the full spectrum of health.”

The deal was hailed as advancing telemedicine and digital health services. As it turned out, though, the demand for those types of services fell far short of the Teladoc’s expectations. One way to interpret the cause of the multi-billion dollar write-down is that adoption of digital health services by physicians, healthcare providers, and consumers is not happening as fast as Teladoc projected.

It may also be that companies allocated too much money to deals during the COVID-19 pandemic, an unstable period of time for making major business decisions.

In fact, worldwide digital health funding fell 57% in 2022 after a high in 2021, according to a CB Insights State of Digital Health 2022 Report.

Teladoc to Reduce Costs while Pursuing Increased Adoption of Virtual Care

Gorevic told analysts during the earnings call that the company needs to reduce costs and reach a market that is “in the early innings.” Year-over-year growth of 6% to 11% is expected in 2023, he said.

“You should expect us to balance growth and margin with an increased focus on efficiency going forward. Part of that approach is rightsizing the cost structure to reflect the current growth rates of the business,” Gorevic said. “The more balanced approach does not mean that we will stop relentlessly pursing growth and increased adoption of virtual care across the industry. Virtual care’s role within the healthcare industry remains underpenetrated, and we will continue to invest to expand our leadership position,” he added.

Digital Health Investing Falls Off

However, citing digital health market data in the new CB Insights report, Becker’s Hospital Review(Becker’s) suggested the digital health bubble may have “popped,” and that funding by investors is falling fast from the “Golden Age” of 2021.  

The digital health category grew by 79% in 2021 to $57.2 billion, a record high, according to data cited by Becker’s. In the fourth quarter of 2021, there were 13 new digital health companies with valuations of at least $1 billion each. But by the end of 2022, digital health funding dropped to $3.4 billion. That’s “a five-year low,” Becker’s reported.

“The drop in funding in digital health companies I feel is a response to the volatility in healthcare where over 50% of hospitals and healthcare providers have posted losses for 2022 and a bleak outlook for 2023,” Darrell Bodnar, Chief Information Officer at North Country Healthcare in Lancaster, New Hampshire, told Becker’s.

And, in a statement about hospitals’ financial health, Fitch Ratings said providers in 2022 reported “weaker profitability and liquidity” as compared to 2021. For most providers, a “rapid financial recovery” is not expected, Fitch noted.

Labs Need Telehealth Strategies

All of this uncertainty in the telehealth/virtual care markets may ultimately benefit clinical laboratories and lab investors who delayed investing in technology that enables supporting physicians and patients using telemedicine visits. Still, it would be smart for medical laboratory leaders to develop a digital health strategy to meet consumer demand for lab testing services in tandem with virtual care visits with healthcare providers. 

—Donna Marie Pocius

Related Information:

Teladoc Health Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2022 Results

Teladoc Sinks $13.7B Loss in 2022 Tied to Plummeting Value of Livongo Acquisition

Teladoc Health and Livongo Merge to Create New Standard in Global Healthcare Delivery, Access, and Experience

State of Digital Health 2022 Report

What is Digital Health?

Teladoc Health Reports $13B Loss in 2022

Early Not-for-Profit Hospital Medians Show Expected Deterioration, Will Worsen

Did the Digital Health Bubble Pop? CIOs Weight In

Teladoc Health’s Agreement to Acquire Livongo Is a Blockbuster Deal in the Telehealth Sector, But Is it Positive or Negative for Clinical Laboratories?

Physician acceptance of virtual visits with their patients is being accelerated by the pandemic and the pending merger would combine the nation’s two biggest telehealth companies

Telehealth visits with virtual healthcare providers are increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This is forcing the entire healthcare industry—clinical laboratories in particular—to adapt to new methods of patient data exchange and communications. What is not clear is how independent clinical laboratories and hospital labs should expect to interact with telehealth providers, receive lab test orders from virtual doctors, and return test results.

But perhaps more important, patients’ acceptance of virtual care—i.e., reduced face-to-face access to their doctors—may be motivating telehealth companies to expand their offerings while also using mergers and acquisitions as a way to expand market share.

The recent announcement of Teladoc Health’s (NYSE:TDOC) agreement to acquire Livongo (NASDAQ:LVGO) is such an example. Some experts believe it could reset the competitive playing field, noted Robert Michel, Editor-in-Chief of Dark Daily.

The Teladoc-Livongo deal, if completed, will combine a virtual care company with a digital chronic disease management company, thus creating one of the largest telehealth companies to ever exist, noted Fierce Healthcare, which reported, “The combination of two of the largest publicly-traded virtual care companies announced Wednesday will create a health technology giant just as the demand for virtual care soars. The combined worth of the two companies is said to be worth about $37 billion, according to Piper Sandler.” Piper Sandler (NYSE:PIPR) is an American multinational “investment bank and institutional securities firm,” according to the company’s website.

During a call announcing the acquisition, Jason Gorevic, CEO of Teladoc, told business analysts that Teladoc will pay $18.5 billion in cash and stock to acquire Livongo, which went public in July at $28/share, and at the time of the acquisition, was worth $159/share, Fierce Healthcare reported.

Details of the Teledoc-Livongo Deal

COVID-19 has accelerated the trend toward expanded use of telehealth, and as a result, both Teladoc and Livongo have seen exponential growth in the last few months. Fierce Healthcare reported that Teladoc has experienced year-over-year growth of 85%, that revenue growth of 30-40% is expected in the next two to three years, and that Livongo has reported 125% revenue growth in the second quarter of 2020. The combined company is expected to reach $1.3 billion in revenue, Fierce Healthcare predicted.

Jennifer Schneider, MD
“What Teladoc brings is an incredible access to 70 million people with loads of data and the ability to deliver a one-to-one service at scale. What Livongo brings is a digital-first footprint, a strong data science engine, and the ability to deliver a one-to-many at scale, so it really is the combination of the two organizations that is delivering on that shared common vision of this consumer-center virtual care,” Livongo President and Chief Medical Officer Jennifer Schneider, MD (above), told MobiHealthNews.” What was not discuss is how clinical laboratories fit into the virtual care paradigm. (Photo copyright: Kimberly White/Getty Images for Tech Crunch.)

Analysts who have commented on the deal tend to agree with the leadership of the two companies. “I’d expect this to become a single point of access for virtual care in the next five years with one app to control them all,” Stephanie Davis, Senior Equity Research Analyst at SVB Leerink, an investment bank that specializes in healthcare, told FierceHealthcare.

Along with providing a “single point solution” to consumers, the combined company may be able to improve management of chronic conditions and access to high-quality care. “This combination creates an opportunity to empower patients to manage serious health conditions through a single, integrated delivery platform with robust capabilities,” Daniel Stewart, Managing Director, RBC Capital Markets (NYSE:RY), told FierceHealthcare.

Impact on Clinical Laboratories

Although the Teladoc-Livongo deal may not have immediate or direct repercussions for those who work in clinical laboratories, it represents an accelerating trend toward virtual health. Since there is no widely accepted way to collect lab specimens when a physician sees a patient remotely and orders tests, medical laboratory managers will want to remain flexible so as to develop effective ways to collect and test specimens after a patient’s virtual visit with a physician.

Dark Daily discussed this in “As Primary Care Providers and Health Insurers Embrace Telehealth, How Will Clinical Laboratories Provide Medical Lab Testing Services?” To stay ahead of the curve, labs must be proactive in their approach to responding to virtual care. Robust strategies that include communication with health plans, hospitals, and networks must be implemented sooner rather than later, because the push toward telehealth has gained momentum far sooner than most experts originally predicted. 

“My advice in these times of change is to do something,” Ted Schwab, Healthcare Strategist and Entrepreneur told attendees at the 24th Annual Executive War College, in New Orleans. “What we know today is that providers—including clinical laboratories and pathology groups—who do nothing will get trampled. However, those providers that do something proactively will most likely be the winners as healthcare continues to transform.”

As ever-larger numbers of physicians and patients grow comfortable with the use of telehealth because of the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical laboratories will benefit from adapting their specimen collection and transport arrangements to meet the needs of patients who do not physically visit their physicians’ offices and do not go to a laboratory patient service center.

Patients who visit providers in person can leave the office with a doctor’s order for lab tests and go directly to a lab’s patient service, often in the same building. But what will the process be when they have just completed a virtual office visit with their providers?

—Dava Stewart

Related Information:

How Teladoc’s Blockbuster Deal Could Impact the Entire Virtual Care Landscape

Livongo’s President Dr. Jennifer Schneider Talks Potential in Livongo and Teladoc Merger

As Primary Care Providers and Health Insurers Embrace Telehealth, How Will Clinical Laboratories Provide Medical Lab Testing Services?

Strategist Explains Key Trends in Healthcare’s Transformation