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Can Teladoc Keep Its Competitive Advantage?

By Brian Withers and Taylor Carmichael – Oct 3, 2021 at 7:30AM

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It's an early mover, but the telehealth playing field is getting crowded.

Teladoc Health (TDOC 2.34%) is no doubt the leader in the telehealth space today. But as customers and employers see the increased popularity of telehealth services, can Teladoc maintain its spot on top?

In this video from "Beat & Raise" on Motley Fool Live, recorded on Sept. 23, Fool.com contributors Brian Withers and Taylor Carmichael discuss some of Teladoc's biggest competitors, and some things investors should keep their eyes on.

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Brian Withers: Taylor, as I was researching, Teladoc is one of my key holdings. But you talked about in the beginning here, Doximity getting into telehealth and I know Twilio has enabled a number of different companies to get into video health sessions as well. Once existing hospitals coming on, are they going to compete with Teladoc? What about all these other folks who are offering now virtual services? GoodRx is doing it too. How is Teladoc going to kind of stay in the lead here and compete against all of these upstart competitors?

Taylor Carmichael: I think it's going to be tricky, the whole thing is, Amazon, you didn't mention or Zoom.

Withers: Amwell?

Carmichael: Amazon.

Withers: Amazon, too?

Carmichael: Amazon's deal, which is kind of mind-boggling, what they want to do is provide you with telehealth. If that doesn't solve the problem, they'll get a doctor to your door within an hour.

Withers: [laughs] Oh, man.

Carmichael: Yeah. You hear that and you're like, wow, people are going to love that. That sounded really cool. Just to bring back the doctor at home visit. One thing that strikes me about Teladoc is I have another virtual healthcare play that we're not talking about today because I've actually lost faith in it. The stock has been cratered and it has been a bad investment. But what happened to that particular stock is they would have an insurance company cancel the program, and the market just took a big hit. I guess that's one thought process about Teladoc is if they have an insurer cancel, does that hurt them? How dependent they are on the decisions made by health insurance plans, and how that's going to depress margins, really, because a health insurance planner can say, "Well, we'll go with Amwell if you don't bring your thing down."

I remember back when I was investing in optical stocks, how I'd love the technology, but the telcos just killed them on price and they would just bring everything down. There was just a small number of customers making those decisions. I guess that would be one concern I would have about Teladoc is, do their customers have more power than they do? Is that why their margins are not as nice as you'd like them to be? I do think that hospitals are going to compete. Teladoc's a different thing. It's a virtual hospital and that's an amazing thing. I think they are powerful business. I think they're going to put all this other competitors out of businesses, swallow them up or they'll disappear. They're going to be like the Google of what they do, I think. Everybody else is going to be the AltaVista. I'm very bullish on Teladoc, but I do think there are indirect competitors that might cause them headaches including Doximity, including Amazon, and including the omnichannel approach of your existing hospitals.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Taylor Carmichael owns shares of Amazon and Doximity, Inc. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, GoodRx Holdings, Inc., Teladoc Health, Twilio, and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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