Treating patients via remote telehealth is going to continue to transform the healthcare field, providing greater convenience, specialization and reduced costs for consumers, according to panelists who participated in a recent discussion on healthcare trends, partnerships and capital investment. The Emory Alumni Association hosted the discussion at Atlanta’s WeWork space in Midtown as part of the Entrepreneur Network Series.

Stuart Bracken 07MBA, founder of Bioscape Digital, served as moderator for the panel discussion which also included

  • Sarath Degala 05MBA, vice president, BIP Capital
  • Jeff Kingsley 11MBA, CEO, IACT Health
  • Tanya Mack, president, Women’s Telehealth
  • William Plumer, managing partner, Bullet Partners

In today’s world of high deductibles, consumers are shopping around for healthcare services to keep costs low, particularly for things like ear infections that may not require an in-person visit. Additionally, according to Mack, specialists aren’t available for 70 percent of the country.

“Telehealth is a way to pipe it in and any doctor’s office can put it in,” Mack said.

There will be more telehealth adoption globally for B2B and B2C in the future, she said, with more incentives and with younger consumers opting for cost and convenience over care by an on-site provider.

In addition, the panelists agreed that developing the right strategic partnerships that deliver value is key to small and startup healthcare companies, particularly in rural areas. 

“We are seeing former competitors partnering together, particularly in rural areas where you have a small number of individuals and a high cost of treating these individuals,” Plumer said.  The key is to keep it “labor light” and match the right technology with the right service. Those that partner strategically in the right way will succeed, he added.

“It’s important to do your homework on who you get in bed with,” Plumer said. “If they can’t add value to your commercial relationship in 24 months, you don’t need to do the deal. You can find others.”

Mack agreed, noting that she looks for investors that also have a platform to help deliver in the markets that matter to them.

The timing of bringing in an investor depends on the type of capital funds and the stage of adoption a company is in rather than simply risks vs. rewards, Degala added.

But for those entrepreneurs who are willing to fight to bring new services and processes to market, there is tremendous potential. 

“Change will happen and it requires people who are willing to fight,” Kingsley said. “We have a phenomenal opportunity for disruptive innovation as technology will transform the broken healthcare industry. Every day is a fight but being first to a market and being a problem solver positions your company really well.”

More and more, he noted that providers will “bypass brick and mortar and conduct clinic research by working directly with patients in their homes. It’s going to be revolutionary.”

Ultimately, Mack sees her company’s role as a way to improve patient care, noting patient surveys that are over 95 percent favorable for telehealth. 
“I’ve been surprised at how open they (large healthcare providers) are to partnering with us to try new ways to care for patients,” Mack said. “You have to be assertive and just do it.”