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The coronavirus has increased demand for remote care. Photo: Teladoc Health

Teladoc's $18.5 billion acquisition of Livongo creates the health care industry's largest company devoted to multiple forms of digital care.

The big picture: The coronavirus has accelerated the shift toward virtual doctors' visits.

How it works: Teladoc and Livongo make money by selling subscriptions to their remote technology to employers and health insurers.

  • Teladoc focuses on regular doctor visits and non-emergent care. Livongo's main technology is for diabetes management, among other chronic conditions.
  • The two companies are on track to register $1.3 billion of revenue this year, a more than 80% increase from last year due almost entirely to the surge in demand stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Between the lines: The appeal of telehealth comes down to convenience (people waste less time traveling, waiting and taking off work) and the potential to save money (remote visits are cheaper than having to go to the emergency room).

Yes, but: Virtual visits cannot replace all in-person visits. And there aren't any cost savings if telehealth simply acts as a precursor to an in-person visit, which has concerned some federal health analysts.

  • And while these options seem like free benefits with a job or health plan, the costs are ultimately borne by workers through health insurance premiums.

Worth noting: Even though Teladoc has only been a public company since 2015, it has had several financial irregularities.

Go deeper: Telemedicine doesn't waste a crisis

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

UnitedHealth's profit declines as more people see doctors

A health care worker prepares to care for a coronavirus patient in a hospital ICU. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

UnitedHealth Group's profit in the third quarter dipped 10% as people sought health care at rates "more closely approaching normal," executives said on an earnings call today.

Yes, but: UnitedHealth's quarterly earnings still hit $3.2 billion, and even though the health insurance division is paying more in medical claims, more people also are going to doctors' practices, urgent care facilities and surgery centers owned by UnitedHealth.

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

16 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.