Telehealth and the Future of Healthcare: An Interview with John Webb, Founder of Quantum Reach

We interviewed John Webb, a literal rocket scientist who worked on the space shuttle program and started Quantum Reach. This venture capital hybrid helps early-stage companies with strategy development and execution, 80 percent of them in healthcare and focused on access, delivery, preventive health and chronic care management.

How do you see telehealth impacting the healthcare sector?

Technology can truly be used to both improve the quality of life and save lives, and telehealth is a prime example. Telehealth also helps solve the riddle of access for both inner city and rural communities. This levels the playing field to eliminate health disparities. Most feel that the adoption of telehealth is not a matter of if, but when.

Four major areas are emerging–information/education, remote/outpatient health monitoring, interactive diagnosis/treatment (via the Internet) and remote telepsychology/consulting. Many participants in this marketplace focus on one or two specific areas. The critical element is that access through technology makes the world a smaller place by bridging true access to quality care. 

What about in the future?

Telehealth solutions could eliminate 60 percent of in-person doctor visits, predictions show. This creates better productivity on both sides and can engage patients on a more consistent basis. Also, it will draw many millennials into the healthcare system–people who have grown up expecting faster responses to their questions via live chats and web searches. The new generation also views technology as a supplement or acceptable replacement for personal interaction. In addition, technology advancements in medical equipment and body sensors will improve the ability to perform more treatments from afar.

Do you see more telehealth activity from Fortune 500 companies or new entrepreneurial companies?

Everyone is getting into the game at different levels. Smaller, more nimble companies are doing most of the pioneering. They are disrupting the status quo. Large industrial, telecommunication and software firms are also in the fray, creating mechanisms that enable telehealth to be delivered and become more widespread. Finally, drugstore companies like Walgreens and CVS are finding ways to partner with smaller firms to enhance the value propositions of their in-store clinics. Health plans and insurers tend to partner or acquire transformative technology companies based on their target market. So, there will be a great deal going on across the healthcare landscape.  

How are new, small companies raising capital for their ventures? Where are the hotbeds of activity in this area?

Several companies are emerging as the key players in this space. These include American Well, Doctor on Demand, Teladoc and MDLive. They have received significant amounts from investors thus far. However, new upstarts like Video Medicine and Myowndoctor are seeking to establish their own niches. Future market entrants and investment plays will probably be in specialized areas that can enhance quality and health outcomes. 

What do you think will spur more growth and development in telehealth, or has it already reached an apex?

The two major inhibitors to growth in this space are adoption and provider reimbursements. These are being slowly resolved each day. Once readily accepted, the sky is the limit. Telehealth is just rounding first base, so there is a lot more room to run and innovate in the health space. If people are looking for an area that will be hot for the foreseeable future, telehealth is it!

What do you consider the ‘mega-trends’ in healthcare today?
  • Transparency – We’re seeing much better understanding of the healthcare process, medical procedures and costs.
  • Data/Information – Improved tracking of individual health history, infinite information on health issues, and excellent analytical tools and predictive modeling are changing the landscape.
  • Consumerism – An element of choice is given at the member level versus the employer level. We’ll see more customization of coverages based on individual needs. People are also becoming more financially accountable for their own health and well-being.
  • Technology – Many breakthroughs are transforming the healthcare industry.
These trends are leading to greater awareness, knowledge and action for improved health and wellness in today’s society.