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American Well unveils telehealth solution for physician practices

American Well, a Boston-based developer of telehealth programs for health plans and large providers, is setting its sights on physician practices.

The developer of the three-year-old Online Care platform has just released Online Care for Providers, a customizable portal through which physicians can offer live, on-demand consultations with patients at home or in the workplace, either on the Web or by phone. The portal enables physicians to, in effect, create an online version of their practice, allowing for more convenient care for their patients.

Company CEO Roy Schoenberg said the new offering allows physician practices to hew to the guidelines of an accountable care organization. It also creates a platform by which physicians can properly charge for their services, allowing them to achieve ROI on patient interactions that aren’t currently reimbursed – such as phone calls, text messages and e-mails – and explore new services, like specialty consults and concierge medicine.

“It’s really the first time that telehealth capabilities are being brought into the physician practice,” Schoenberg said. “This supports the bread-and-butter workflow of the practice … and helps to contain the care of patients all within the ACO.”

According to Schoenberg, the physician practice leases the portal from American Well, which configures the portal to the specific needs of the practice. Once each physician is established online, invitations are sent out to patients, who can then “enter” the online practice through the administrator. The administrator establishes a record for a new patient, updates data on returning patients and then sends a message to the physician that a patient is ready for an online consultation.

“Patients are essentially brought into the lobby of the physician’s practice – the waiting room,” said Schoenberg.

According to Schoenberg, the Online Care platform in use for the past three years by health plans and large providers works best for urgent and acute care cases, in which a patient needs an immediate consultation with a physician. By turning that platform around to face the physician, he said, the physician can create an online routine for regular patients, such as those with chronic conditions who need to keep in touch with their doctor at regular intervals.

“The relationship between doctor and patient, the frequent interaction … was something that the previous system was not really geared up to do,” Schoenberg said.

Schoenberg said the portal is designed to give physician practices a turnkey telehealth solution that will qualify them for federal reimbursements under the ACO guidelines put forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

He said the system isn’t set up at this time to allow for three-way consults – “the technology is kind of emerging, it’s kind of shaky right now.” He expects that technology to improve with time, along with the technology to allow the American Well platform to link with home-based biometric devices.

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