Investors are flocking to stay-at-home stocks as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the market and bring whole economies to a grinding halt.
And while hefty tech names like Netflix and Amazon are doing well in the new reality, so are tech companies in the health care sector where it’s all about giving patients access to services without the need for face-to-face contact.
“Certainly, close exposure is a risk and that’s why everyone is recommending at least six feet of distance and social distancing. For us, over 90 per cent of our worldwide employees are working from home at this point,” said Jason Gorevic, CEO of health care tech company Teladoc Health (Teladoc Health Stock Quote, Chart, News NYSE:TDOC), speaking to CNBC on Monday.
“And, you know, I was just looking at a thank-you note from a mom of a seven year old girl who was throwing up in the middle of the night and didn’t want to go into the emergency room but didn’t know what else to do, and she was thanking us for being there and avoiding the exposure to what’s likely in many emergency rooms in urgent care centres around the country,” said Gorevic.
While the markets suffered another dreadful day on Monday as news of the virus’ spread across the United States stoked fears of a major economic slowdown, there were a few outliers, including Teladoc, which gained 18 per cent.
Remote conferencing company Zoom Video Communications shot up 22 per cent while Netflix and Amazon posted eight per cent and 2.5 per cent gains, respectively.
Gorevic said the spike in client use of Teladoc’s services over the past ten days has been incredible.
Last week, the US federal government announced it would be expanding access to telemedicine services for citizens using Medicare.
“We’re certainly seeing a significant increase in volume, and I didn’t exactly expect the President to be talking in a White House press briefing about telehealth,” Gorevic said.
“If you’d asked me that a few months ago, I would have said that was pretty unlikely but it’s fortunate that we’re able to be here for the American people during this crisis.”
Last week, the Ontario government announced it was adding resources to cut down on call wait times for its Telehealth service while both Ontario and BC are now allowing doctors to bill the province for virtual patient visits and video assessments.
“We’ve been preaching the benefits of telemedicine” for years, said Cherif Habib, co-founder and CEO of Montreal-based telemedicine start up Dialogue Technologies, speaking to the Globe and Mail on March 18. “For various reasons, we haven’t had as much traction as we would have liked from the regulators and provincial health services. I think now there’s a huge realization virtual health care has a huge role to play.”
BC-based WELL Health Technologies, which owns health clinics now empowered by its own VirtualClinic+ telehealth platform, announced last week its support for the moves in Ontario and BC to expand telemedicine services.
“We are very encouraged to see the quick and decisive actions by government health officials in both BC and Ontario to support doctors and patients,” said Dr. Michael Frankel, Chief Medical Officer of WELL Health, in a March 17 press release. “These changes will undoubtedly make a difference in helping the healthcare system meet the anomalous demand and circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The shift to telemedicine has not been without its hiccups, however, as criticism has arose over Alberta’s new virtual medicine app, launched last week by the province in conjunction with Telus. The Alberta Medical Association has called out the province for launching the program without consultation with the AMA, saying that the service has both privacy issues and effectively disrupts the continuity of care needed to address health concerns.
Disclosure: Jayson MacLean and Nick Waddell own shares in Well Health Technologies and the company is an annual sponsor of Cantech Letter