By Julia Moore
Telemedicine is booming. According to a new market report published by Transparency Market Research (TMR), the global telemedicine market was valued at $14.3 billion in 2013 and is expected to reach an estimated value of $36.3 billion in 2020. Although these numbers predict large economic success for this emerging industry, Texas might miss out. A lawsuit between the Texas Medical Board and Teladoc, the largest and most profitable telehealth firm in the US, will determine the fate of telemedicine in Texas.
In April 2015, the medical board voted to implement stricter regulations governing telemedicine, making Texas the most heavily regulated state in the country for telemedicine. Teladoc is contesting these new rules, arguing that the board is abusing its power by imposing new restrictions on telemedicine. If the board prevails, Texans will be unable to access telemedicine as they are currently allowed to do (thanks to an injunction against the new rules while the lawsuit proceeds) and left with a health care system of fewer options and higher prices.
The TMR report states the key factor behind the growth of the telemedicine market is the efficiency of telemedicine systems. The remarkable convenience to consumers and providers that telemedicine offers could create a significant opening for the industry. For instance, after Teladoc became the first publically traded telehealth platform in the United States on July 1, 2015, they experienced unprecedented financial growth. According to Teladoc’s report of its third-quarter results, within the year membership had increased by 56% and total revenue was up 83% to $20 million. Based on these numbers, Teladoc has predicted their total revenue for 2015 to be in the range of $75.4 million to $76.5 million (the final results are yet to be released).
As telemedicine becomes more popular, the number of firms offering the service are growing to meet booming consumer demand. (Other major firms include MDLive, American Well, and Doctor on Demand.) Insurance companies have answered by adding telemedicine as a covered benefit. According to the Texas Association of Health Plans (TAHP), it has been projected that telemedicine services will increase from 19.7 million visits in 2014, to 158.4 million by 2020. Currently, hundreds of thousands of Texans have access to telemedicine through their insurance plans, but if the Texas Medical Board were to win its lawsuit, these benefits would evaporate.
Although Texas has one of the strongest economies in the country, it could fall behind in telemedicine. After all, forty-eight other states have fewer restrictions. In fact, the American Telemedicine Association said Texas is tied with Arkansas for last place in their state telemedicine rankings. This status could improve or stagnate depending on the results of the pending federal lawsuit. Although Teladoc is fighting the battle, the results will impact the entire telemedicine industry in Texas.