With Governor’s Approval, Teladoc Expands Texas Telehealth Services

Dallas—Texas, a large healthcare market and the home state of Teladoc (NYSE: TDOC), has been a relatively small market for the telemedicine firm.

But now with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature on a new law that makes operating in the state easier, Teladoc is poised to expand its business here. Lewisville, TX-based Teladoc had been involved in a six-year lawsuit with state health authorities over whether a patient-physician relationship can be established online without an in-person visit first. The company, which has three million members in Texas (out of a total of 20 million across the U.S.), will now resume care consultations via video.

“Getting to the doctor is not easy; it’s not easy to get an appointment,” Jason Gorevic, Teladoc’s CEO, told me in an interview last week. “As a result, people end up going for expensive or inappropriate care. Fifty percent of our visits are on nights and weekends and holidays when the average doctor’s office is closed. We’re available 24-7 every day.”

While most people associate telehealth with rural communities, Gorevic says the need also exists in urban areas. Thirty-five counties in Texas do not have a primary care physician and Texas ranks 46th among the states in terms of primary care physicians per capita, he added.

On Monday this week, HealthTap, a startup based in Palo Alto, CA, announced that Abbott’s signature meant it would launch its telehealth service in the state. The health IT company has raised nearly $40 million in funding and, in December, launched its Doctor A.I. service, an artificial intelligence “doctor” that connects users to physician-recommended insights. The company says its software analyzes data gained in these interactions in order to continually teach itself.

Other companies like Pager, Spruce, and Sensely—which offers Molly, a virtual nurse avatar—are also using machine learning to expand access to care.

Teladoc began offering telehealth services in 2005, but in 2010 the Texas Medical Board imposed rules that restricted video conferencing without first establishing an in-person relationship between a doctor … Next Page »

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