American Well, Consult A Doctor Unveil iPhone Telehealth Apps

American Well's new Online Care 6.0 platform adds mobile functionality, and Consult A Doctor is demonstrating a new telehealth app for the iPhone.

As the American Telemedicine Association conference (ATA 2012) kicks off in San Jose, Calif., American Well Systems and Consult A Doctor are both taking remote care mobile. American Well has unveiled a mobile app as part of version 6.0 of its Online Care cloud-based platform, and Consult A Doctor is demonstrating a new iPhone app at the conference.
American Well's Online Care 6.0 platform, introduced April 30, allows doctors to make house calls using the Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The app currently supports voice-based consultations and will offer two-way video by later this summer. The company will add an Android version later this year as well.
Doctors can use the mobile application to monitor online waiting rooms as well as send and receive secure messages, American Well reported.
"Many of the issues that prevented patients from using the system literally go away with mobile," Dr. Roy Schoenberg, CEO of American Well, told eWEEK. He noted that with Web sessions, patients may lack a Webcam, microphone or speaker, but all of these components are built into mobile phones.
"It's full-blown connectivity built into one handheld device," said Schoenberg. "We are extending the reach of our services literally to the fingertips of patients."
The mobile telehealth app could allow caregivers in emergency rooms, community health centers and pharmacies to connect remotely with patients, Schoenberg noted.
American Well's PC-based Online Care version also now connects to remote medical devices, including derma cams, ophthalmoscopes, stethoscopes, otoscopes and spirometers, which measure the volume of air in the lungs as patients inhale and exhale.
Online Care 6.0 also adds the ability to do a "warm transfer," or transfer the connection from one provider to another specialist. For a diabetic patient, a telehealth session could transition from an endocrinologist to a nutritionist, said Schoenberg.
A management engine, or real-time switchboard, allows doctors to port patients through the American Well network, he said.
In addition, Online Care 6.0 enables patients to connect with providers in one click without enrolling or logging in, according to American Well.
Insurers, such as WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group and several Blue Cross, units have integrated American Well's Online Care service into their health plans. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs and pharmacies, such as Rite Aid, have adopted American Well's technology.
Meanwhile, at ATA 2012 another telehealth vendor, Consult A Doctor, is showing a beta iPhone version of its service that will be unveiled officially in the coming weeks. The app allows doctors and patients to connect to telehealth sessions in the cloud on the iPhone.
Patients can connect to the Consult A Doctor 24/7 provider network using the app.
"Once you log in, you'll be able to talk to a doctor in 90 seconds, securely email and receive messages in the app and communicate securely on the go," Wolf Shlagman, founder and CEO of Consult A Doctor, told eWEEK.
The iPhone app allows patients to hold sessions with doctors, as well as access a health library and lab reports on a secure connection.
At the foundation of Consult A Doctor's telehealth service is its TeleCare 3.0 cloud-based platform, which the company licenses to hospitals, clinics, physician practices and health plans.
Although the iPhone app doesn't support video yet, the company plans to add it in the future. Consult A Doctor has an Android version in the works for later this year as well.
Some of the app's messaging capabilities work on the iPad, but Consult A Doctor anticipates that voice capabilities for the app will be added on the tablet in the future, said Shlagman. The Consult A Doctor app will initially be used by its core members and will later be rolled out broadly to consumers, said Shlagman.
A mobile telehealth app could be useful for patients traveling abroad, Shlagman noted. In addition, by holding a consultation with a doctor remotely, patients need not take off from work, he said. Some health plans are waiving co-payments for in-person doctors' visits if patients try a telehealth service first, said Shlagman.
Audio from Consult A Doctor telehealth sessions is recorded and added to patients' electronic health records (EHRs).