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.
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?