Health insurers, medical providers and employers are increasingly offering telehealth services to patients as a convenient, less expensive alternative to doctor and emergency room visits. But the number of patients taking advantage of virtual care has been slow to catch on.
Israel-based telehealth startup TytoCare aims to change that with digital tools that will help patients and their doctors go beyond a video conference to replicate a full in-person examination from the patient's home.
With its latest federal clearance of a digital stethoscope, TytoCare is launching a full suite of user-friendly exam tools that allow patients to conduct an examination of the ears, throat, skin, heart, lungs and temperature. Using Tyto, a handheld gadget with various attachments for different exams, patients can take high-resolution photos of the inside of the ear canal or moles and lesions on the skin, or record the heart rate, for example.
“If you look at the market, most interactions are by phone or video chat,” TytoCare CEO Dedi Gilad said of the telehealth industry. But “just doing video chat and voice calls can only do (so much), and that's why use is still so low.”
Software guides the patient through the exam step-by-step so data is captured accurately. Readings can be taken in real time during a telehealth visit or in advance of a session and transmitted to a clinician. The tool costs about $300.
TytoCare is also launching a professional version that acts like a mobile clinic so doctors can capture digital exam data, integrate the data with patient health records and share those exams with other clinicians.
The startup, which has raised over $19 million in funding through investors that include Cambia Health Solutions and Walgreens, is rolling out its tools through five health U.S. health systems, including Advocate Health Care, two telemedicine vendors and several physician groups, Gilad said.
Despite the emphasis on encouraging patients to shop around for affordable medical services, telehealth has been slow to catch on among consumers. Even though about 70% of large employers offered telehealth services in 2016 with 90% planning to next year, just 3% of employees used the benefit in 2016, according to the National Business Group on Health.
Still, experts expect adoption of telehealth—which averages $40 per virtual visit— to pick up speed as more patients take on a greater share of their health plan costs.