Summary: Healthcare is an attractive vertical for telcos to address with digital solutions, given the sector’s low digital base and rising demand for healthcare services from ageing populations and changing lifestyles. Although many telcos have made attempts to capture this opportunity through telehealth or consumer wellness services, TELUS stands out as an example of the value of a long-term commitment to healthcare. In this case study, we examine TELUS’ strategy in health, evidence of its success, and draw out lessons for other telcos. (Enterprise Cloud & ICT Stream, August 2017)
Below is a short extract from this Telco 2.0 Report that can be downloaded in full in PDF format by subscribers to the Enterprise Cloud & ICT Stream here. To find out more about how to join or access this report please see here or call +44 (0) 207 247 5003.
Healthcare is one of the few sectors where, in every country, there is a huge and ongoing need. This demand will only rise as populations age and grow, exacerbating significant pain points relating to costs and funding models, and unmet needs. Meanwhile, the combination of cost pressures, the sensitive nature of health data and the complexity of healthcare systems have left it as one of the least digitised sectors. Thus, many telcos have identified healthcare as a sector where there is significant opportunity to drive efficiency through new services leveraging their network infrastructure and customer reach.
In some respects, telcos are well positioned to fill the healthcare sector’s needs. For example, enabling doctors to offer virtual care to patients through secure messaging or video chats, and to share electronic health records with patients and other doctors more easily, seem like low hanging fruit. However, in practice this is much more complicated; hospitals, primary care providers (general practitioners, family doctors), specialised clinics (e.g. mental health, physiotherapy) and pharmacies all store patient records in different systems (that are not necessarily digitised), and have different views on how to securely share data between each other. Every healthcare system also has a unique funding model, ranging from predominantly privately funded through insurance providers or out of pocket payments, like the United States, to single payer models like the UK, where the National Health Service accounts for more than 80% of healthcare spending, and budgets – including IT solutions – are closely tied to electoral and economic cycles.
These synergies have prompted a number of telcos to launch consumer health services or to pursue opportunities in the health IT market. Besides TELUS, AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone, Telefónica, NTT DoCoMo, Telstra, Deutsche Telekom AG and BT have all been active in healthcare. We explore their strategies and differences in comparison with TELUS’ approach on page 33. Why TELUS? This report focuses on TELUS Health, which has one of the longest and the most committed investment into the healthcare sector by a telco that we are aware of. We see it as a leading example of how telcos can build a business in healthcare, as well as in other sectors that are not instinctively linked to telecoms.
To put the Canadian healthcare market, which TELUS entered ten years ago, into context:
Starting in 2005, led by the CEO Darren Entwistle, TELUS executives came to a consensus that just focusing on connectivity would not be enough to sustain long term revenue growth for telecoms companies in Canada, so the telco began a search into adjacent areas where it felt there were strong synergies with its core assets and capabilities. TELUS initially considered options in many sectors with similar business environments to telecoms – i.e. high fixed costs, capex intensive, highly regulated – including financial services, healthcare and energy (mining, oil).
In contrast with other telcos in Canada and globally, TELUS made a conscious decision not to focus on entertainment, anticipating that regulatory moves to democratise access to content would gradually erode the differentiating value of exclusive rights.
By 2007, health had emerged as TELUS’ preferred option for a ‘content play’, supported by four key factors which remain crucial to TELUS’ ongoing commitment to the healthcare sector, nearly a decade later. These are:
That all four of TELUS’ reasons for investing in healthcare remain equally relevant in 2017 as in 2007 is key to its unwavering commitment to the sector. Darren Entwistle refers to healthcare as a ‘generational investment’, saying that over the long term, TELUS may shift into a healthcare company that offers telecoms services, rather than the other way around.
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Technologies and industry terms referenced include: Healthcare, digital health, telehealth, consumer wellness, vertical, enterprise, IoT, business model, M&A, strategy, regulation, platform, branding.