- Best Buy Health partnered with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant to launch a telehealth-enabled flip phone for seniors.
- Telehealth vendors will likely dig deeper into senior markets as seniors warm to virtual care.
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Electronics retail giant Best Buy’s health unit launched a new flip phone—dubbed LivelyFlip—that can integrate with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and boasts telehealth features to connect seniors to on-demand providers, per Becker’s Hospital Review. The phone’s Amazon voice-powered tech enables seniors to make calls and send texts—in addition to the device’s urgent call button, which links a user directly to 24/7 access to care teams at telehealth company GreatCall.
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As more senior patients warm to virtual care, rolling out senior-focused telehealth tech should knock down lingering barriers to widespread adoption, like limited technology access and experience. The pandemic catalyzed rapid uptake of telehealth services for seniors as social distancing recommendations forced them to opt for virtual care in place of in-person visits: Telehealth adoption among seniors skyrocketed to 300% during the pandemic, according to a recent survey from healthinsurance.com.
However, barriers like lack of smartphones or tech knowledge hindered other seniors from tapping these same services: For example, in April, primary care startup Oak Street Health pivoted to telephone visits after realizing that its seniors had difficulty acclimating to video-enabled telehealth, citing lack of smartphone access and discomfort with video visits as major hurdles to uptake. As such, we think designing easy-to-access tech—like a telehealth-enabled flip phone without the bells and whistles of a smartphone—should help sustain telehealth adoption among seniors beyond the pandemic.
The Medicare population is expected to skyrocket over the next 10 years—and we think this presents a massive opportunity for telehealth vendors to expand into senior-focused markets. For context, KFF reports that the number of Medicare beneficiaries has swelled dramatically in the past decade—and the growth is expected to continue over the next 10 years.
We’ve already seen major telehealth vendors extend their coverage to include senior members: Doctor on Demand, for instance, launched a solution for Medicare part B members, making it the first large telehealth company to address this cohort. And considering the Medicare population remains widely untapped by other massive virtual care players, we expect other major telehealth players to stake their claim in this market, too.
Further, the majority of seniors suffer from one or more chronic illness—and we wouldn’t be surprised to see these telehealth companies lure in Medicare members with their disease management platforms: Teladoc’s mega merger with Livongo, for instance, should prop up its value among seniors, giving its platform a competitive advantage over other giant telehealth vendors.
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