Technologies Serve a World of Provider “Haves” and “Have-Nots”

Robert Lord
Aug 25, 2020 · 3 min read

This is part 4 of our eight-part series on the future of digital health. Check out our full white paper here if you want to see our complete vision for healthcare in the 2020s.

Relaxation of providers’ ability to cross state lines and consumer willingness to use tele-health platforms will also allow the world’s top healthcare brands to expand ever-further into markets that might have been previously less-accessible or too burdensome to penetrate. Tools that enable them to expand their “digital front door” across the nation will create vast disparities in the revenue-generation ability of nationally-branded health systems versus their regional competitors.

We believe that there will be continued acceleration in the development of platforms that serve as conduits for nationally-recognized expertise. While current telehealth companies have often focused on contracting providers and owning the “full-stack” of technology to enable a patient visit all the way to prescribing, we believe that the cognitive labor will necessarily be unbundled from the technology to access that expertise moving forward.

This unbundling will occur because telehealth platforms that contract doctors on an ad-hoc basis will have to compete with platforms that facilitate visits with top hospital physicians, creating a much more competitive environment as some of the overhead associated with a major academic medical center providing care is diminished. It will be very difficult for a platform that specializes in remote neurological care to compete with Johns Hopkins-branded neurologists being offered through a similar channel for a similar price, for instance (full disclosure: Hopkins is my home institution, and I’m very proud to be a part of the Hopkins family).

Ultimately, tech will have to specialize in what it is good at (providing SaaS platforms that facilitate the delivery of care, logistics management, and financial optimization) while health systems will provide what they are good at (medical expertise regarding diagnosis, treatment and long-term management). The final configuration of companies in this space could thus evolve in two directions — tech platforms could “rent expertise” from top health systems to deliver care, or top health systems could “rent innovation” from platforms in order to project expertise.

In addition, we do not believe that the aforementioned bifurcation between “haves” and “have-nots” means the inevitable collapse of regional health systems that have been ably serving their communities for decades. We believe that 1) their revenue mixes may change, necessitating structural changes in their business and 2) they will be incentivized to find and promote unique relative strengths that they can use to build wider brands and offerings.

As a result of these trends, we would want to look for platforms that sell to or partner with providers to enable their “digital health system” in various ways. Whether your platform aids in acquiring and scheduling, facilitating office visits, expanding the types of care that can be delivered, or ensures engagement and retention of telehealth customers, we are interested in the “picks and shovels” of this new wave of delivering care. Whether you are helping the “Haves” deploy their brands and relative strengths, or helping the “Have-Nots” identify and leverage new competitive advantages, we want to assist in the process of competition and transformation improving healthcare for everyone.

If you found this interesting, check out the full white paper, Eight Drivers of Digital Health in the 2020s, a comprehensive look at how LionBird views the future of digital health.