Telehealth shows signs of promise

December 9, 2019

Telehealth and mobile health services are  refocusing the efforts of nurses, doctors and technicians in the delivery of patient care.

The initiatives combine artificial intelligence and learning software with traditional consultations by doctors and nurses. These are often accompanied by smartphone apps that enable access to health plan details from a mobile device with the information shared among the various parties. The consultations can be by phone, tablet or computer using video chats and offer 24-hour access to nurses.

Telemedicine may eventually change how healthcare is delivered and is gradually becoming part of the landscape.

A recent survey by J.D. Power   found that the take up of these services has been modest, but  those that use it, like it, rating the services on average 851 on a 1,000-point scale. Almost half of respondents gave telehealth a score above 900.  J.D. Power said the rates of approval are close to those of online shopping and smartphone banking.

A leader in this area is UnitedHealth Group Inc., (NYSE: UNH) is a Minnesota-based  managed health care company offering health care products and healthcare insurance. It is the 5th largest American company by revenue in the Fortune 500 rankings.

UnitedHealth has a market capitalization of US $265 billion and for the 12 months to Sept. 30, 2019 had revenues of US $220 billion. UnitedHealth is a top holding of the  Harvest Healthcare Leaders Income ETF (HHL-T, HHL.U-T).

UnitedHealth offers an assortment of online and mobile tools giving employees access to health information and incentives for wellness. The incentives include such simple things as fitness trackers which help employees meet daily walking goals. It makes weight loss coaches available.

United Health recently added to its efforts with is rolling out a virtual care app for the more than 27 million Americans covered by its employer-sponsored health plans.

The app lets users schedule and conduct a virtual visit with a doctor. Physicians can diagnose a range of conditions.  Doctors can prescribe and send medications to local pharmacies for pickup and patients can access their health plan details which they can share with pharmacies, locate nearby healthcare facilities and view the status of their deductible and out-of-pocket spending.

As of Nov 30, 2019, the Harvest Healthcare Leaders Income ETF held 20 of the largest global healthcare companies with an average market capitalization of $180 billion CAD.

About 42 per cent of the holdings are in pharmaceuticals, 21 per cent in biotechnology, 19% in healthcare equipment and supplies and 15 per cent are healthcare providers.

The holdings have an average dividend yield of 1.94% and a current yield of 8.93% enhanced by Harvest’s covered call strategy. The companies held in the ETF have an average 5-year return on equity of 19.16%.

For more on Harvest Portfolios Group click here.

The views and/or opinions expressed in the blog are of a general nature and are for informational purposes only. Blog contents should not be considered as advice and/or a recommendation to purchase or sell the mentioned securities or used to engage in personal investment strategies. Investors should consult their investment advisor before making any investment decision.

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