Global funding for telehealth companies surged in the March quarter as investors jumped on what will clearly be a trend for 2020.

A total of $US788m ($1.3bn) was invested into this sector making it the top funded digital health segment in the world during the quarter, according to data from research firm Mercom Capital Group.

The interested investors include venture capitalists, lenders, and sharemarket speculators.

At the end of March Australia’s largest venture capital fund Square Peg Capital led a $44m investment in Singaporean telehealth company Doctor Anywhere in order to gain access to the theme, while vet telehealth service VetChat secured an undisclosed sum from Sydney-based Petsure.

Telehealth beat other sectors such as wearables, data analytics, booking software and medical imaging — all of which are areas ASX companies are heavily involved in — for investor interest during the quarter.

Global private equity and corporate venture capital funding into digital health companies in the March quarter came to a record $US3.6bn in 142 deals, compared to $US1.7bn in 142 deals in the previous quarter.

“The healthcare industry is really leaning on digital health technologies, particularly telehealth solutions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic,” Mercom CEO Raj Prabhu said.

“We anticipate funding trends to shift among digital health technologies, and we also see investors lose interest in certain products and solutions which would have been funded in a pre-COVID world.”

Over two weeks in mid-March telehealth arrived in Australia, as the medical industry was forced to rapidly change their practices from face-to-face consults to phone and video, to protect staff and patients from potential COVID-19 infection.

The government committed $699m over six months to the sector, after ignoring it since its inception in the early 2000s.

The heads of telehealth companies told Stockhead they were dealing with a surge of interest, and hoped six months would be enough to embed the once-maligned concept into the fabric of the Australian health sector.

These include Coviu, 1st Group (ASX:1st), and MedAdvisor (ASX:MDR).

But it also captures companies offering digital monitoring services, such as Adherium (ASX:ADH), which today secured a deal to integrate its inhaler monitoring software in Pennsylvania-based HGE Health’s telemedicine platform.