Analysis: What the CVS, Aetna deal means for telemedicine

New mergers in the healthcare space — like this week's $69 billion Aetna and CVS takeover — may give telemedicine its long-awaited, and much-deserved, boost, according to an analysis by CNBC health and technology reporter Christina Farr.

Although telemedicine has been around for nearly 10 years, it has yet to become a household name among consumers. But through partnerships with tech giants, prominent healthcare namesakes are helping it gain recognition, Ms. Farr argues.

When striking the deal with pharmacy giant CVS, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini reiterated the benefits of remote monitoring technologies, including Bluetooth-connected glucose meters coupled with apps for virtual providers that alert patients when their blood sugar levels are off, as a vital part of his strategy — one that will improve care and lower costs.

Another recent venture in the healthcare space that propagates virtual healthcare is Apple's Heart Study app, which brings together Apple, Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine and telemedicine provider American Well. The study connects patients monitoring their heart rates with study physicians through American Well's telemedicine service to collect data on irregular heart rhythms known as atrial fibrillation.

"It was a huge deal [for us]," said American Well Chairman and CEO Ido Schoenberg, MD, when asked about the Apple partnership, according to CNBC.

Ms. Farr adds that these mergers and partnerships are signaling a bright future for telemedicine, which is "great news for the growing crop of venture-backed companies that offer virtual consultations, home-health monitoring and digital health apps. It's finally making people aware of some technology that's been around for years, which represents a more convenient alternative than a long drive to a medical clinic," she writes.

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