How to Start a Telehealth Business

If you are starting or growing a telemedicine business or virtual care service you’ll want to listen to the recent Tech Talks Daily conversation with Wheel CTO, Chris Norris. Here, we highlight 7 tips for growth and innovation every telehealth technology company should know.

Wheel CTO Chris Norris has an excellent track record of growing successful, thriving technology businesses. He’s taken four startups in a row to IPO and $150m+ acquisitions. He’s built businesses and products from the ground up. And he’s scaled teams, technology, and process 10-100x.

With this wealth of startup experience and tech company knowledge, we wanted to share highlights from his recent discussion on the Tech Talks Daily podcast with host, Neil C. Hughes. There he discussed barriers to telehealth implementation on a national scale, virtual care business opportunities, and the foundational principles all successful healthcare startups share.

This insightful, 30-minute interview is an essential listen for healthcare technology companies working on launching, growing, or scaling a virtual care service. Below, you’ll find the highlights of the discussion outlining the top seven tips for growing a telehealth business that’s built to last.

1. Healthcare technology must not be an added burden for clinicians or patients.

    Unfortunately today, healthcare technology is failing both clinicians and patients. In a recent poll by Stanford Medicine, more than 90% of respondents felt that their EHR systems had little to no value for clinical decision support.

    It’s crazy to think that all this data that’s being collected is really not about making people's health better.

    Doctors on hospital rounds can require up to four assistants to follow them around performing data entry and retrieval, and often they’re spending hours of personal time completing these tasks. Technology should not enhance the clinician burden—it should be the exact opposite.

    Modern healthcare companies need to be assessing how to develop solutions that ease clinician and patient burdens, leveraging technology to enhance care delivery and relieve friction points.

    2. Companies that perpetuate the healthcare delivery status quo will become irrelevant.

      Healthcare innovation has been stifled by the regulatory environment, and it hasn’t caught up with what technology is capable of. For example, a clinician licensed in Texas can’t treat a patient in New York. Many virtual care technology companies have been supporting and perpetuating this status quo.

      Until companies focus on fundamentally changing healthcare delivery, it will be impossible to meet increasing patient demands, manage a complex clinical workforce, and provide consults in all 50 states.

      The companies that realize this the fastest are going to be the winners in the coming years.

      We believe this area is ripe for disruption and innovation.

      3. To innovate fast enough in virtual care—and stay competitive—you’ll need outside help.

        Companies across the spectrum are realizing the value of telehealth—not just traditional healthcare providers, but also retail clinics, pharmacies, labs, health plans, digital health companies, and modern, forward-looking businesses.

        But, here’s the problem they face.

        It’s too expensive, complex, and inefficient to manage a clinical workforce and build your own medical consult infrastructure required for nationwide care.

        Virtual care companies that are running fast to innovate require support and enablement to move faster than their competitors. There are simply too many companies joining the virtual care landscape at light speed to spend time, quite literally, reinventing the Wheel.

        Wheel’s flexible, modular foundation for delivering virtual healthcare is the springboard for rapid innovation. Our simple technology integration connects a marketplace of board-certified clinicians to deliver on-demand, compliant consults without geographic limitations. No other solution currently exists in the marketplace, and companies that try to solve for this on their own are unfortunately going to innovate too slow, or at too high a cost, to be successful.

        4. Major telehealth opportunities lie in remote patient monitoring.

          When people think of telehealth or telemedicine they assume it’s a video call with their doctor.

          It’s much more than that.

          Remote patient monitoring for chronic conditions like diabetes, heart arrhythmias, or high blood pressure allows patients’ health to be monitored without going to a clinic—a powerful and far-reaching form of telehealth.

          The virtual care possibilities within remote patient monitoring are game-changing for patient quality of life and care delivery.

          In addition, remote patient monitoring creates a new delivery model for clinicians to provide care, as they no longer have to be sitting in a clinic or hospital to be able to connect with patients.

          Today’s forward-looking companies are innovating on patient care niches and physical devices.

          Solutions that can help individuals manage their health faster, better, or more cost-effectively have the most potential for future adoption and success.

          5. Real-time data analysis & intervention will change care delivery.

            To move healthcare forward, it will be important to look at the health of individuals and group populations and do both continuously—not just at the infrequent points in time when patients feel ill and go to the doctor.

            Brick-and-mortar health systems are set up to address short-term acute care, and not to manage conditions that require long-term ongoing care. That’s where technology can make that cost-effective.

            We can ingest data from wearables and medical devices—like continuous glucose, blood pressure, or heart monitors—and can feed data continuously in real-time into systems like Wheel’s. Then, we can apply trend analysis and anomaly detection to get feedback to the patient and allow a much faster cycle of responding to issues.

            Next-generation companies will bring in a clinician to assess new data or worrying anomalies in seconds or minutes—not days.

            6. Successful healthcare startups need the right people.

              There is a healthy dose of luck and timing in making a startup successful. But the common thread is hiring the right people. To maximize your chances of success, ask yourself when hiring:

              • Does this person take ownership of what they do?
              • Do they really care about the companies’ goals and can drive towards them?
              • Is this person bold and willing to come up with the best solutions?
              • Does this person have an inherent drive to make an impact?
              • Are they a strong collaborator?
              • Does this person exhibit craftsmanship paired with pragmatism?

              It’s important to see your team as individuals, positioning them to do their best work every day. Enable autonomy. Set clear goals. And allow teams to operate independently against them.

              “I tell my teams to be looking for the next smallest step that will either unlock some business value or allow us to learn something new.”
              - Chris Norris, Wheel CTO

              7. Transparent company culture breeds innovation.

                Everyone in a startup environment should live and breathe transparency, but particularly leaders and managers.

                The hidden meaning behind being transparent means ensuring we communicate the bad as well as the good.

                As a company leader in an industry as dynamic and challenging as healthcare, you must foster psychological safety by always giving encouraging feedback and input. You must show that when a problem surfaces, it’s a good thing and not a bad thing.

                If you’ve hired the right people and achieved the right culture, when a problem comes to light, you should have people lining up to ask, “How can I help?” not looking to assign blame.

                Hiring the right people and fostering a culture of transparency are two of the most critical components in predicting success for a startup company.

                Wheel’s role in the future of healthcare delivery

                Our CTO, Chris Norris, was under the misconception that a job in healthcare meant being slow-moving, bureaucratic, and unoriginal. He came to learn it’s the exact opposite in virtual care.

                Healthcare is an unsolved problem that is full of fragmented, dated, and terrible technology. It’s a real opportunity to upend and rethink how clinicians deliver and patients receive care. And the telehealth industry is in the midst of an upswing, with more innovation than ever before.

                Wheel aims to be the technology hub that accelerates virtual care innovation, and we hope you’ll join us in our quest to change the way healthcare works.

                Listen to the complete Tech Talks Podcast with Chris Norris here. >

                To partner with Wheel to launch, scale, or optimize your telehealth services, schedule a meeting with our sales team or contact us for more information.