Telehealth soared in popularity last year, and it wasn't all due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials were already seeing a surge in traffic before the public health crisis began. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the first three months of 2020, the number of telehealth visits were up 50% from the same period last year, and the majority of them weren't to treat or address concerns related to COVID-19.

One stock that's benefited from the growth in telehealth over the past year is Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC). It's arguably become the early leader in telehealth, and with its recent acquisition of Livongo now complete, it's an even bigger and better diversified healthcare stock.

How much money could you have made from investing in Teladoc shares a year ago, before the massive growth in telehealth? Let's take a closer look and see how well the stock has performed, and whether it's still a good buy.

Stethoscope and pen laying on a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Buying Teladoc stock a year ago would have doubled your money

At the start of 2020, shares of Teladoc were trading in the $82-$84 range. If you had invested $10,000 and caught the stock in the midpoint at $83, you would have bought roughly 120 shares of the company. Today, the stock trades at close to $200, and that would make the investment worth $24,000 right now.

That's not a bad $14,000 profit, or 140% return on your investment. The S&P 500, for comparison's sake, rose only 13% during the past year. Even top tech stock Amazon gained far less in the increasingly digital world -- 69% to be exact. 

However, part of the reason Teladoc was able to soar above the majority of stocks was because it had a much smaller valuation to begin with. A year ago, its market cap was about $6 billion. Amazon, meanwhile, was already approaching the $1 trillion mark.

Investors love a good growth stock, and Teladoc has been among the best in that category. In the nine-month period ending Sept. 30, 2020, the company reported sales of $710.6 million -- 79.1% higher than the $396.8 million it generated in the prior-year period. Although the company's net loss ballooned from $79.8 million to $91.2 million, investors were willing to look past those losses, given the significant sales growth that Teladoc has achieved.

Can Teladoc continue to produce strong returns in 2021?

Teladoc's stock is down more than 11% in the past three months while the S&P 500 has continued to rise by 10%. Investors are starting to sell-off Teladoc now that concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic are riding on hopes that multiple vaccines can help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

However, one of the reasons the Teladoc-Livongo merger came together is because the companies saw many more opportunities ahead. Not only is there an opportunity for the two businesses to provide broader options for patients (Livongo focuses on chronic care, which can complement Teladoc's existing services), but management also believes the growth in 2020 wasn't just due to short-term trends. "We're not going back to pre-COVID levels of utilization because the satisfaction levels and efficacy is so high," said Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic shortly after his company announced the $18.5 billion deal to acquire Livongo.

With Teladoc now serving a wider base of patients, including those with diabetes, it's probable that 2021 will see telehealth visits continue to rise, especially since COVID-19 cases are still increasing -- which could be the case for several months until a sizable chunk of the population is vaccinated.

Through just the first nine months of 2020, Teladoc reported 7.6 million visits, which was a year-over-year increase of 163%. Assuming it doesn't see a large drop-off this year and can benefit from tapping into Livongo's existing patient base (at the time of the acquisition, there was just a 25% overlap in customers), Teladoc's revenue and visit numbers could continue to surge in the months ahead.

Should you buy Teladoc stock?

The stock has fallen in value in recent weeks, and COVID-19 is still a big problem for the country, so it could be an opportune time to buy shares of Teladoc now that they're dipping. There's still so much growth ahead for the stock and investors can still win great gains if they decide to invest today -- even though the stock rose so much in the past year. While Teladoc's shares may not double in value in the next 12 months, it still looks like a solid growth investment to put into your portfolio for the long term.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.