Virtual Health Care: Right Here at Home

After the July 2020 acquisition of Goleta-based InTouch Health—for approximately $150 million in cash and 4.6 million shares of stock—Teladoc Health is well positioned in the global telehealth market and also a large employer here, with about 230 positions in Santa Barbara County. Joe DeVivo, Teladoc’s president of hospitals and health systems, discussed the technology, ever more important during COVID.

WHAT DOES TELADOC DO? The mission of Teladoc Health is to transform how people access and experience health-care around the world. With virtual care, we are enabling patients to access care on their terms—from general medical issues like cold and flu to chronic conditions, including mental health, and complicated medical issues.

HOW HAS THE COMPANY GROWN? Teladoc Health was established for what has come to be known as virtual urgent care: providing access to board-certified physicians via phone, app, or website for acute health needs like cold, flu, upper respiratory issues, pinkeye, and more.

Through multiple acquisitions, the company not only expanded globally, now operating in 175 countries, but also added clinical capabilities, covering more health conditions across the spectrum of care, including dermatology, mental health, expert medical services, and more.

HOW IS THE PANDEMIC AMPLIFYING THINGS? COVID-19 has exponentially increased the number of hospitals and health systems utilizing virtual-care platforms as well as expanded the use cases for those who had already deployed a virtual-care platform. While we knew in January that the InTouch transaction would play a key role in our growth, we couldn’t have predicted the level of need it’s enabling us to meet for hospital systems now motivated to create comprehensive virtual-care strategies.

Our pipeline with hospitals and health systems remains strong for the rest of 2020 and 2021, set to grow over 35 percent in 2020. Teladoc Health is now partnering with more than 60 of the top 100 hospitals.

WHAT IS INTOUCH FOUNDER YULUN WANG’S CURRENT ROLE? In his capacity as fellow with Teladoc Health, Yulun Wang will now focus on the importance of growing virtual health-care opportunities for underserved populations around the globe with the World Telehealth Initiative. We will continue to foster the Teladoc Health relationship with UCSB, and we also see expanding opportunities for students to participate in Yulun’s work with the World Telehealth Initiative.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


The Shift to Telemedicine

The Shift to Telemedicine, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.

The Shift to Telemedicine, from Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.


All it took was a pandemic and a government-mandated shutdown, but it looks like telemedicine — the modern version of the house call — is here to stay.

Dr. William Gallivan and his team at Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara were using telemedicine on a limited basis for years before COVID-19, primarily for out-of-town patients who wanted to discuss possible surgical procedures and for short, post-surgical follow-up appointments. So when the pandemic mandated physicians to digitize their health-care process in March — while lifting some privacy restrictions to allow virtual exams — his office was better prepared than most. Even with restrictions now eased, the Orthopedic Institute is managing more than one-third of patient visits via telehealth.

In order to train seniors and other non-digital natives in the process, Gallivan is a “heavy utilizer of scribes,” enlisting tech-savvy, pre-med students to work with patients in advance of their appointments to set up remote communication. There’s a learning curve. “Sometimes it’s three or four calls to connect,” said Gallivan. “And with the outliers, it takes me two days of calling them to actually get a connection to do the telehealth. But most of them, more than 90 percent now, are set up and engaged with the telemedicine portal.”

How does this work for orthopedic exams, say, for a bad knee? “If it’s not a post-op, the patient actually can do a self-examination as we instruct them how to do it,” he said. “If we can see their range of motion, assess the swelling a little bit, and they can point out where it’s tender, we have a reasonable way to assess the problem and make recommendations.”

He plans to continue with telehealth as a bigger part of the practice even when the pandemic is over. Of course, he can’t replace the first post-op visit, when sutures are removed — “at least it would be a bit more of a challenge,” he said — but telemedicine works well for the six-week checkups.

“We can really be quite effective,” he said. “The communication has been excellent. Actually, some of it may even be better than the in-person stuff, because you are looking at the screen, instead of staring at a knee most of the time, you’ve got the patient’s face right there. The nonverbal communication is important, and I think we get that with telemedicine pretty well.”

He’s been happily surprised with how well it works, leaving visits confident that he provided a good service and not a second-rate one just because it is remote.

“It’s certainly not perfect, and I’m a big fan of in-person communication,” he said. “But the efficiency of not having sick people that have to travel for a meeting, and being able to get stuff done and having direct communication, is enhanced.”

Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara:

Active Aging 2020: Our Annual Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens; Santa Barbara Independent, Active Aging Special Section, July 30, 2020.


Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on July 30, 2020. To view the Active Aging Guide to Senior Life, Seen Through a Pandemic Lens, click here.