American Well Telehealth Platform Expands to Small Providers

American Well has gone national with its Online Care for Providers telehealth platform, expanding service beyond just health plans to reach doctors' practices and patients directly.

American Well has rolled out a new version of its Online Care telehealth platform to allow physician practices of all sizes to offer the service directly to patients nationwide.

Previously, American Well offered Online Care to major hospitals through a pilot project with health plans such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and WellPoint in states such as Minnesota, Texas and Hawaii. Now with Online Care for Providers, American Well is targeting "mom and pop practices," American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg told eWEEK.

"You're taking your technology built for absolute Cadillacs and making it available to the mass market," Schoenberg said.

Doctors in practices of all sizes, as well as nurses and patients, can use the service from anywhere by Web or phone.

Online Care allows providers and patients to hold consultations using two-way video, secure text messaging or phone. The virtual meetings can be live, on-demand or scheduled.

"In terms of the experience, the whole point of this is to use technology to facilitate the interaction between the physician and their own patients," Schoenberg said.

Doctors determine the fee scale for the service, and Online Care allows them to be paid for routine emails or calls they would otherwise provide for free.

Telehealth using the phone or the Web provides an option for continuity of care for patients who need to travel large distances to reach a doctor or who need to be monitored for chronic conditions in between visits.

The April 19 news from American Well comes as telehealth emerges as a growing option for doctors and patients. President Obama mentioned the telehealth trend of doctor/patient face-to-face video chats in his State of the Union address on Jan. 25.

Schoenberg believes the president was referring specifically to the American Well platform, since the company had been in touch with the White House.

Online Care provides an opportunity for doctors looking to capitalize on federal accountable care benefits, in which groups of doctors can collaborate to earn financial incentives based on Medicare patients' positive health outcomes. Specialists such as dermatologists can join online sessions along with the primary care physician, Schoenberg said.

With the latest release of Online Care, American Well hopes to attract small providers who may not have an IT department. They can use the Web-based functionality of Online Care without managing an IT infrastructure.

"Essentially we are running the system for them-they actually literally go on a Website," Schoenberg said. "They're not installing anything."

Doctors can import notes from online patient visits into EHRs (electronic health records).

In addition, Online Care allows health providers to customize their online "storefronts."

Doctors have full control over the price structure. For them, the cost of using Online Care is similar to that of EHR or practice-management applications rather than that of health plans, according to Schoenberg.

Physicians inviting patients to an online consultation will send them an e-mail invite. "They then land in the waiting room of the physician's lobby," Schoenberg explained.

Online nurses, who may even be at home, help patients get acclimated to the service and virtually walk them over to the doctor.