In recent news, both Optum and Walmart are closing their telehealth operations (Walmart is also closing its physical clinics). Only a few years ago, during the Covid crisis, telehealth seemed like a winning vector for digital health entrepreneurs, investors, and of course the healthcare ecosystem. Today virtual care providers are struggling.

What happened?

  • The virtual care market is getting saturated 
  • there is little differentiation between the market players
  • the transactional nature of patient interaction with a physician isn’t working.

Let’s doubeclick on that last bullet. 

Ask yourself who do you trust more – someone you’ve known and has provided you with a service for 10 years, or someone you just met? 

The importance of relationships between clinician and patient can’t be understated. If each of your telehealth visits is with a different doctor, it’s difficult to establish a bond. There is no shared history. 

It’s hard to quantify and measure the value of such relationships, but qualitatively it makes sense. 

Looking into the next generation of solutions, AI and digital health companies should strive to improve patient-clinician relationships, not diminish or replace them.

At Twig, for example, it’s the same nurse engaging a patient over the course of months and longer. Even though the relationship is sms-text based, there is mutual trusts and respect that develop with time. 

As a result, our engagement stats are amazingly high. Patients feel comfortable to reach out because they already know who’s going to reply, and how soon (usually within minutes to a few hours).

To sum it up: Investing in relationships may seem expensive in the short term, but it always pays off.