NASHVILLE — Doctor on Demand and Teladoc were among the telehealth players descending on the insurance industry's annual meeting this week to tout services aimed at helping payers bend the cost curve.
Telehealth is a multibillion-dollar business, with many companies partnering with payers and employers to nudge workers to potentially save time and money for non-emergency care. Getting workers to sign up is still a challenge, and carrots are needed to spur interest, insurers and telehealth companies said at America's Health Insurance Plan's 2019 conference.
"This isn't a 'build it and they will come' kinda of thing," said Raad Joseph, senior vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina, one of the first Blues to set a policy around telemedicine, in part to boost care in rural areas. "You really need to develop strategies to drive utilization."
Despite the promise of cost savings and faster care reaching rural areas, uptick is still a drop in the bucket. Doctor on Demand says it has 3 million on its platform, while Teladoc says "million and millions."
To propel employee adoption, the South Carolina Blues plan introduced $5 copays and a $75 sign-up fee, Joseph said.
The executive spoke on a panel touting Teladoc's platform, but American Well, Doctor on Demand and others had a presence in the exhibit hall.
Startup Doctor on Demand earlier this year inked a deal with Humana to sell what it dubs the first "virtual only" plan design, which involves assigning primary care doctors upon sign-up based on a set of questions from the worker.
The 6-year-old San Francisco-based company's CEO told Healthcare Dive he didn't want to be lumped in with a typical telehealth company.
"We think of ourselves as a tech-enabled national medical practice, not a telemedicine service," Hill Ferguson said in an interview.
Doctor on Demand's main selling point is a focus on primary care and on staff doctors and high-tech video visits as quickly as within five minutes of signing up.
"This is not phone-based medicine where you rent a doc, with an independently contracted doctor trying to make some extra money on the side," Ferguson said in a potential swipe at rival Teladoc, which has a variety of staff relationships.
Privately-held Doctor on Demand has "no immediate plans" to go public, he said.
Purchase, New York-based Teladoc reported surpassing 1 million visits in the first quarter, but its net loss grew to $30 million from close to $24 million a year earlier.
Teladoc calls itself more of a one-stop shop, with recent acquisitions of second opinion-focused Best Doctors, and a dietitian network, among others.
The goal is to "provide a virtual first door into healthcare … to triage them to necessary brick and mortar locations or other online options," Eric Glazer, VP for client experience and innovation, told Healthcare Dive.
Teladoc is also talking about a so-called virtual first platform.
"Virtual first is where it's at right now," Glazer said, noting it was a term the company used internally ad nauseam.