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2014 Up-and-Comer: Teladoc

May 15, 2014
by David Raths
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To accompany our Healthcare Informatics 100 list of the largest companies in health information technology, we like to give readers a heads-up on some fast-growing companies that could very well make the HCI 100 in years to come. Throughout the week, leading up to the release of this year’s HCI 100 list on May 19, we will profile companies that have caught the attention of investors and analysts by addressing pressing needs in the industry with elegant, sophisticated solutions. So far they have been able to execute on the business side, managing the challenges of growing from startups to well-established companies.

Some companies on our list of Up and Comers have actually been around for quite a while, gradually establishing their niche before suddenly gaining momentum. For instance, telehealth company Teladoc Inc. was founded in 2002, but took almost a decade to pick up steam.

Teladoc, which is located in Dallas, provides 24/7 access to medical care for adults and children experiencing non-emergency medical issues via phone, secure online video, mobile app or a private, walk-in kiosk. The company will complete more than 200,000 consultations this year, and recently announced it had surpassed 7.5 million members.

Its customers are mostly large insurers and employers. In 2013 it was named No. 9 on Fast Company’s list of the 10 most innovative companies in healthcare.

The 80-employee company was founded with the idea of the triple aim in mind before the ‘Triple Aim’ even existed, says CEO Jason Gorevic, who joined the company in 2009 after serving in various executive capacities at WellPoint Inc. “The goal was improving access to care, reducing cost and improving quality,” he says. “It was becoming clear that access to care was increasingly an issue in the market, and there was the beginning of the emergence of more ubiquitous broadband access and the need for new mechanisms around the delivery system.”

Jason Gorevic

Yet Gorevic acknowledged that when he joined in 2009, the company had yet to hit its growth spurt. “The company was still trying to find its place in the market. It spent an awful lot of time evangelizing about the need for telehealth in the overall delivery system,” he says. “I came into a situation where the company was growing at a relatively modest rate.” Although Gorevic didn’t share specific figures, he says Teladoc grew revenue by 25 percent in 2010 and 2011. In 2012 it grew by 75 percent, and by more than 100 percent in 2013.  “And we’ll grow by over 100 percent this year,” he adds.

The approximately 500 physicians who work for Teladoc are all independent contractors, who do the remote work as part of their overall practice. “Some decide they want to practice telehealth as a large part or the only part of their practice, but generally speaking they do telehealth in addition to their practice,” Gorevic says. Its physicians are internists, family physicians, pediatricians and emergency physicians. “We will soon add behavioral health and dermatology specialties,” he adds.

The providers must be licensed in the state the patient is calling from, and some states require the physician be resident in that state. “Part of our technology solution facilitates matching licensed physicians with patient requesting consultation,” he says.

Teladoc has growth both through acquisition and deals with large health plans. In 2013 the company acquired another telehealth company, Consult A Doctor, to allow it to broaden its reach to new market segments, especially small- to mid-size businesses.

It has contracts with payers such as Aetna, Highmark, and Blue Shield of California. “In addition, we have spent a lot of time with benefit consultants and they are embracing telehealth as one of the critical strategies for employers as they manage benefits and costs,” Gorevic says, “so that has been a significant contributor to our growth. We also see the hospital systems and accountable-care organizations as a new, emerging segment of the market for us.”

The fact that telehealth is not reimbursed by Medicare except in very constrained conditions remains a challenge, Gorevic says. “But we believe in the not-too-distant future CMS will re-examine its reimbursement policies,” he adds. “The savings and improved quality of care are pretty irrefutable, and it will become clear that this is a more efficient and more effective way to deliver care for a lot of things.”

Gorevic says that Teladoc has proven the growth model for its business. “Now we are looking for ways to invest to continue to expand the scope of our offerings.”