As telehealth continues to gain attention as an option for patient care, a startup called 1DocWay is helping hospitals connect with psychiatric patients remotely in rural areas.
1DocWay is part of an effort by Independence Blue Cross (IBC) to boost the health care IT industry in the Philadelphia area. IBC is a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association insurance company serving southeastern Pennsylvania.
"We're trying to help establish Philadelphia as a hub for health care information technology and a magnet for health care tech across the country," Tom Olenzak, innovation director for IBC, told eWEEK.
The U.S. operations for Siemens, which offers IT services such as cloud archiving for radiology images, is also located in the Philadelphia area, Olenzak noted.
IBC awarded 1DocWay a $50,000 grant as a winner of a Game Changers Challenge in July 2012. The Challenge was an effort to highlight innovations that aid the health and wellness of the Philadelphia area.
After receiving the grant, 1DocWay was able to expand its number of patient visits from about 200 to around 2,000 by the end of 2012. The company expects to have nearly 3,000 visits by the end of April 2013.
With 1DocWay, hospitals schedule telemedicine sessions with rural care facilities, allowing psychiatrists to virtually meet with patients.
Consumers are showing an interest in using telehealth services, according to a recent Cisco survey carried out by InsightExpress. The survey revealed that 74 percent of consumers are open to virtual doctors' visits.
Originated with the Philadelphia incubator DreamIT Ventures, 1DocWay is a Web-based platform that incorporates video chat along with analytics and a clinical workflow. Doctors can upload documentation such as lab reports, manage a patient's course of treatment and prescribe medication.
Reports produced by the service enable billing and reimbursement to be processed, according to Samir Malik, CEO of 1DocWay.
"We've tied in all these tools into an online communication platform that not only allows a doctor and a patient to video chat but also to facilitate the actual clinical encounter and make sure that everything that needs to be covered is covered," Malik told eWEEK.
Most of 1DocWay's patients come from hospitals and behavioral health organizations in the Pennsylvania area, but the company also has customers in Kansas, Arizona, Georgia and Maryland, Malik said.
"The thickest part of our pipeline is from Pennyslvania," he said.
1DocWay is able to ensure compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by using 256-bit encryption for all data, Malik said. "We require secure key passcodes to enter any video chats that are unique to each user and log-in ID," he explained.
Although telehealth services such as American Well treat other types of conditions such as skin lesions and incorporate remote medical devices, 1DocWay is focused on psychiatry.
In conversations with community centers and nursing facilities, 1DocWay discovered that mental health care is a underserved area, Malik said. "That's really driven our focus on psychiatry."
Still, he noted the value of remote doctor-patient consultations for other types of illnesses.
"Really any chronic disease management service can be provided by telemedicine, whether it's diabetes or heart disease, and that's where you see the American Wells stepping in," Malik said.