Telemedicine is playing a greater role in healthcare in the COVID-19 era but the shift to telehealth will carry on beyond the current crisis, says David Dorman, chairman of US retail and pharmacy giant CVS (CVS Stock Quote, Chart, News NYSE:CVS).
It’s a different world we’re operating in today, with social distancing constraining daily activities and essentially shuttering some segments of the economy as governments worldwide continue to stress the need for people to remain homebound, for the time being at least.
Canadian health authorities have upped their game when it comes to telemedicine, with both BC and Ontario now saying doctors can bill for over-the-phone patient consultations. Ontario’s Telehealth has been overburdened for weeks now as calls about COVID-19 have overwhelmed the service, prompting the province to last week advise Ontarians to call their family physician instead.
And as the telemedicine system becomes more recognized and used, the change in delivering health care should continue, said Dorman, who spoke to CNBC on Wednesday.
“I think a couple of things have come out of this,” Dorman said. “Telehealth has gotten a lot more attention and a lot more activity. We're seeing a big increase in that utilization. With shelter-in-place, people may be more comfortable talking to a doctor through an iPad and describing their symptoms and thinking about what they need to do, should they be tested based on their symptoms or not or should they be positively identified what should they do to monitor their condition.”
“We see that past the coronavirus we think telehealth will get a boost from this and continue,” he said. “Same thing with home delivery. There’s a CVS store within three miles of 70 per cent of the US population, so delivering directly from the store is a real advantage for us. And we're seeing that spike. We’re approaching a million new home deliveries a week from CVS stores and we see that continuing as well.”
As for the general business outlook over the near and long term, Dorman, who is also a board member of PayPal and Dell, says COVID-19 and its fallout will impact sectors differently, both for now and down the road.
“[PayPal] is seeing more activity, people shopping from home and increases in the number of new PayPal customers that have come from this,” says Dorman. “But they also have large customers who have been affected. Airbnb and Uber, for example, their traffic is down.”
“A lagging indicator would be someone like Dell who's in the infrastructure business. You see some increases in certain product areas but as time goes on general business demand could be affected,” he said.
“So I think from my perspective, we talked about reopening countries. It really depends: what's going on in the airline business is dramatically different than what we're seeing in other parts of the economy. If you're in travel, lodging, entertainment, those businesses have largely been shut down. And I think the question is how quickly do those actually come back around,”he said.