American Well Telehealth Platform Adds Biometric Remote Monitoring

Doctors can now use biometric devices to monitor patients' vital signs during live consultations on American Well's telehealth platform.

American Well, a major provider of virtual doctor's visits, has announced that its Online Care telehealth platform will now connect to remote-monitoring devices using the NumeraNet gateway.

The Online Care telehealth service allows doctors and patients to conduct live online visits using two-way video, secure text chat or the phone. Patients can access the American Well service through major health care plans and pharmacy chains.

NumeraNet is an FDA-cleared gateway that allows health data to be captured, transmitted and analyzed through PCs, mobile devices and telehealth home hubs. Doctors can transfer data from the gateway into electronic health records (EHRs).

"Enabling health providers with timely, objective patient information is one of the pillars for effective condition and care management programs," Tim Smokoff, CEO of Numera, said in a statement.

Telehealth is a growing trend that allows doctors and patients to connect in real time through a Web or phone connection.

Taking a patient's pulse, temperature, weight and blood pressure are the essential components of any doctor's exam. Now doctors will be able to access this information over the Numera gateway during a virtual exam, Dr. Roy Schoenberg, CEO of American Well, told eWEEK.

The combined American Well and Numera technology, announced on Sept. 7, will also help doctors monitor chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cancer. The NumeraNet gateway can connect to glucometers to transmit blood sugar levels and to peak flow meters to send readings of how far a patient can breathe out air.

The telehealth platform could also help with maternity care, and electronic scales can measure the amount of fluid in the lungs for patients with heart conditions, Schoenberg said.

"We now see so many different kinds of monitoring devices that are built to be in patients' homes," Schoenberg said. Companies that make remote biometric devices include Liberty, Medtronic and 3M.

"We've closed the loop, where the state of that patient can be clearly available to the physician, who can act on it and treat that patient while the patient is in bed and the physician is in the office," he said. "That is something that is moving the needle on what kind of health care we can give people while they are in their home."

Although Schoenberg noted that telehealth can't do everything medically necessary yet, like allow doctors to feel organs such as the liver, the technology is still advancing quickly, he said.

"The technological infrastructure is making significant progress toward giving physicians everything they need to care for patients with telehealth," he said.

The remote-monitoring devices are also called machine-to-machine (M2M) products, which are among the devices that the health care industry must support, according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan.

Numera connects to American Well's platform using a cellular connection as well as USB port. The data travels from the diagnostic device to Numera's central server, which connects on the back end to American Well's Online Care service, Schoenberg explained.