There’s an air of confusion around digitalisation / telehealth. Everyone knows it is important. But as a standalone prospect, it takes time to make a profit. Babylon’s stock crash, and Kry’s withdrawal from Germany and continuing layoffs do little to dispel digital doom, and many patients insist on a hybrid model of care. But for healthcare companies looking to expand to pastures new, going digital can offer a cheap way to test the water.
Operating a hybrid model has obvious benefits. Elsewhere this week, we write about hospital groups like Luz Saude and CUF in Portugal supplementing their care with apps which allow patients to book appointments and teleconsult with physicians. They can even hold review electronic medical records, which provide an easy-to-access care history for patients and a wealth of data to aid R&D. In doing this, firms can fill a gap in the market ignored by countries who are unwilling to get their hands dirty breaking down siloes.
Crucially, doing this in countries where groups have no current presence is a relatively cheap way of dipping a toe into untested territory without the need for bricks and mortar. Indeed, those bricks may never be needed.
A purely digital offering can be a great way to break into new markets, limiting the risk and upfront cost of a new venture and testing the appetite of consumers. Fresenius Helios did this recently though its telehealth subsidiary Curalie.
Curalie has now set up shop in Colombia and Kenya. While the success of the venture is uncertain, the risk is low compared to funding a fully-fledged hospital in a new market and shouldering all the upfront costs involved. Digital offerings are also not limited by location, unlike hospitals, and can offer patients more touchpoints with their physicians so chronic illnesses can be tracked and patients aren’t left scrambling for care when their condition is too far gone. This is good for patients and good for providers.
For groups looking to assess demand in further-flung climes, going digital appears to be the frugal choice.We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Joe Quiruga or call 0207 183 3779.