By Bob Johnston
October 1, 2020

Teladoc's Yulun Wang, Ph.D. – Pursuing the Digital Health Brass Ring

It’s probably safe to say that we’ve all had firsthand experience with telehealth over the past seven months. Even my ol’ Mom is an expert at Zooming with her doctor. Where are we as a society with telehealth? Which ailments are best suited for telehealth?

My guest today is Yulun Wang, Ph.D., who is a Teladoc Fellow and sold his company, InTouch Health, to Teladoc in January, 2020 (yes, good timing given the massiverun in Teladoc’s stock).

Yulun has spent his entire career in healthcare technology and the past 20 years focused on telehealth. He’s also considered the father of surgical robots, having founded his first company in the mid-90’s and merged it with Intuitive Surgical.

We cover a lot of ground…ranging from Teladoc being at the center of massive transformation in healthcare…where they’re headed next, the 3 hurdles that telehealth is overcoming from the public view, his early days raising VC money and taking his company public…and of course surfing near his home in Santa Barbara!


There's no shortage of money, but there is a shortage of good ideas
On raising venture capital dollars not just now but in the mid-90's too
The biggest remaining barrier to telehealth is adaptation of the health system
On overcoming key barriers such as regulation, reimbursements and culture


Where we are with telehealth as a society

20 years experience in telehealth

Pre-pandemic 30% growth YoY

Hockey stick adoption during pandemic

Still a long way to go to get systematized


Which ailments are most suitable for. Telehealth vs. not?

Analogy to banking - transactions moved online over a period of years

Perhaps 50-60% of patient care will be done via telehealth

Teladoc does 150,000 stroke patients care per year

They also do neo-natal resuscitation remotely

Sold his company, InTouch Health, to Teladoc in January 2020

Dominant teleheatlh provider to health systems i.e. hospitals - paired up wit Teladoc to now cover plans, employers and systems


Teladoc is at center of massive industry transformation


Teladoc going for brass ring as THE digital health company, not just telehealth


What other areas of digital health Teladoc is / will be tackling

Ongoing management of healthcare for patients, longitudinally

Livongo deal makes a lot of sense and needs some explaining


$3 Trillion industry; tons of upside


Baby Boomers – social determinants of health, loneliness, mental health – how telehealth can assist this constituency, particularly mental health

Livongo addresses social determinants of health; focus on chronic illnesses such as diabetes

Average life expectancy has nearly doubled in the past 100-150 years

Must provide high quality care at a lower cost

Digital health must be adopted broadly and systemically


3 things have held back adoption of telehealth –

Regulatory barriers



Pandemic changed the culture piece very quickly, which brought about massive regulatory and reimbursement changes, I.e. State licensures and HIPAA issues are being removed

Six years of progress in 6 months


Biggest remaining barrier is adaptation of health system to adjust to telehealth and work in this new manner, right down to the independent physician model and when the visit a patient at home vs. in-office visit


Father of Surgical Robots

Merged his company 20 years ago into Intuitive Surgical

the DaVinci surgical robot, which is used around the world

The computational algorithms that drives the robots is the secret sauce

Surgical robots will assist with surgeries more and more

Machine Learning will continue to drive more innovation around size and shape of surgical robots and how autonomously they will work

AI techniques will help with autonomy


His father was a professor

Yulun was either going to purées academics or entrepreneurship

What it was like raising money for his first business in 1990, conversations with investors, round sizes have changed drastically compared to nowadays

“No shortage of money, but there is a shortage of good ideas”

Raised $40m during his IPO in 1997, which was considered to be a nice, solid IPO at the time


Different ways to raise money nowadays such as family offices, which will have a longer time horizon and are less likely to beat you up on valuation…but they typically won’t lead a round.

He also invests as an angel investor


Raising money from his 2nd startup


Advice to 25 year old on what industry to pursue right now

Yulun has 4 kids and thinks about young people to skate to where the puck is going when looking at industries

Feels there’s a lot of action in healthcare technology for decades to come

Intersection of AI and Virtual Care

Genomics and Proteomics

Also feels Telecommunications has a lot of action


A contrarian view that Yulun holds to be true – Impact of social media challenges outweigh the benefits; societal problem that needs to be addressed


What’s on his browser

Loves surfing and playing tennis and watching highlights

Balances his news outlets with different political views to get a somewhat balanced perspective