For more than a year, the pandemic completely changed the way we use technology.
We used video-conferencing software for work meetings, birthday parties, and happy hours...
We quit going to restaurants in favor of ordering our meals through food-delivery apps...
And some of us even stopped seeing our doctors in person.
For decades, people have predicted that "telehealth" or "telemedicine" would change the way we get health care. Throw together video-streaming capabilities and a scheduling app, and those tedious and expensive doctor visits could be quicker and cheaper.
Even though the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare published its first volume in 1995, the big boom never really happened... It was always just around the corner...
In 2010, the New York Times said, "Although telemedicine has been around for years, it is gaining traction as never before."
But how many online doctor appointments did you have over the past decade? We're guessing none... at least perhaps until the pandemic hit.
While the concept makes sense, telemedicine had to overcome a lot of hurdles. The technology had to be reliable and easy to operate... Doctors had to be on board... Insurance companies needed to agree to terms. And between regulations and privacy concerns, security had to be top-notch.
Plus, laws had to allow doctors to prescribe drugs and treat patients without seeing them in person.
But now the coronavirus outbreak has forced the shift to happen...
"I think the genie's out of the bottle on this one," Seema Verma, an administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a Wall Street Journal piece. "I think it's fair to say that the advent of telehealth has been just completely accelerated."
As of 2016, only 0.25% of Medicare recipients had used telemedicine. But Congress passed waiver authority, relaxing requirements and regulations during the pandemic that effectively gave 40 million new patients access to telemedicine.
The search is on for new doctors. And the Wall Street Journal notes that appointments have doubled "as [the] pandemic reshapes health care."
Telehealth services leader Teladoc Health (TDOC) saw 3.2 million patients in its most recent quarter, up 56% year over year.
And again, pretty much no one was utilizing telehealth before the pandemic.
While telemedicine can be more convenient and helpful with plenty of conditions... sometimes you just need to be seen in person. And plenty of people feel more comfortable having an in-person examination.
Still, some of these customer gains are "sticky"...
Part of the hurdle for online services like these has been simply getting people set up. People don't know to navigate the app, how to schedule things, or if their insurance covers it. When it comes to activities like grocery shopping, people need to think ahead rather than wander down the aisles and browse the shelves like I do.
It takes work to get people to change behavior. The coronavirus is making everyone take those first few steps.
Now that they've tried the services, a lot of customers will stick with them. Maybe not all will... but it's still a big boost to growth.
Like it or not, telemedicine is going to be a part of our future.
There are plenty of opportunities to invest in the extraordinary growth in telemedicine, but some of them aren't worth our cash.
There are a few pieces of wisdom throughout financial history that writers like us could quote in every issue. Their truth is applicable to nearly every investment. One of our favorites comes from legendary value investor (and Warren Buffett's mentor) Benjamin Graham:
In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.
Throughout the pandemic, the voting machine has been casting its ballots for stocks with immense popularity... but with no "weight."
The weight comes from real earnings and assets. It comes from the ability to turn those new customers into profitable, lasting relationships.
Some of these hot work-from-home stocks may do just that... but many won't. And as people return to workplaces and the earnings don't materialize, the voting machine will turn against these stocks.
That's why you want to make sure you're holding stocks that will do well over the long term. And I believe there's one company standing in the center of it all that's poised to rake in the lion's share of profits as this new wave in health care really opens.
And COVID-19 has been pushing this company's sales higher and higher... Its online health visits are up 600%. And prescription deliveries are up 1,000%. There's also been a fourfold increase in its in-store sales.
But it's not just relying on the pandemic to drive its growth. From how to see your doctor to how to get your prescription, it's streamlining the entire process and saving its customers money.
I recently released a special report detailing everything you need to know about this company and how you should invest in it – "Learn How to Profit on the Future of Health Care Delivery."
To learn more about the company shaping the future of health care and how to profit from the explosive growth in advancements in the health industry, click here to watch my just-released presentation. And if you're already a paid-up subscriber to my Retirement Millionaire newsletter, you can read it here.
Editor's note: Our offices are closed on Monday for Memorial Day, so your next issue of the Health & Wealth Bulletin will be in your e-mail inbox on Tuesday, June 1.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 28, 2021