Health systems lining up to offer telehealth options

Early last month, New York Presbyterian signed a deal with American Well to integrate online doctor visits with the health system’s NYP OnDemand digital health platform. Powered by American Well’s software development kit, patients can access physicians within the NYP network and have a virtual interaction.

“It was really important to us to offer our patients a single digital storefront where they could access all of our services,” Peter Fleischut, CEO at NYP, told MobiHealthNews. “Whether it is finding their way to or hospitals or finding their physicians for a follow up virtual visit, we want them to have all t heir resources available in one place.”

The partnership is a sign of the growing trend toward telehealth services at health systems across the country. According to Danielle Russella, president of client solutions at American Well, the Boston-based company’s health system business has gone from three to four systems several years ago to more than 50 today, and includes Massachusetts General Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare.

New partnerships this year include St. Luke’s University Health Network and Bon Secours in January, Tampa General Hospital in March, Baptist Health South Florida in August, and Northern Arizona Healthcare and Memorial Healthcare in September.

With additional deals in negotiations this quarter, American Well could end the year with over 70 health system partnerships, representing 400 to 500 individual hospitals and between 5,000 and 7,000 providers, according to Russella.

Driving growth are individual practitioners who are looking for new ways to care for patients, to extend themselves and become more efficient, Russella says, noting that it’s not just about lowering costs, but improving outcomes and increasing overall value. 

“Everybody is trying to do more with less, and technology is affording providers that opportunity.”

Danielle Russella

President of Client Solutions, American Well

Health systems also derive value from telehealth by facilitating interdepartmental communication and relationships among different groups of caregivers and specialists. In very large health systems, it offers a way to communicate effectively around the care of a patient or a patient population.

“We’re actually starting to seriously derive value out of the things that we instinctively and intuitively felt but just didn’t have a chance to prove out to the fullest,” Russella says.

Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor on Demand, sees great potential for expansion in the telehealth market. The company is currently enjoying triple digit growth rates as it expands its direct-to-consumer offerings and adds more employer and health plan partnerships.

“Physicians need to have the right kind of information in order to expand beyond certain diagnoses," he tells Healthcare Dive. "The addition of lab data and information from digital health devices such as blood pressure cuffs, wireless stethoscopes, digital otoscopes and glucometers will enable our physicians to complement their clinical assessments and decisionmaking.”

From a health system perspective, on-demand services also reduce the burden on emergency rooms by treating nonemergent cases remotely and opening up availability for patients with real emergent medical needs, Ferguson says. 

“Hospitals can turn their attention and resources to more serious conditions that require in-house testing or hands-on examinations.”

Hill Ferguson

CEO, Doctor on Demand

Intermountain Healthcare partnered with American Well in October 2015 to bring live, on-demand doctor visits via the internet. The program, called Connect Care, launched early this year.

“The partnership has been positive for us, and most importantly patient access and care,” says Brian Wayling, assistant vice president of telehealth services at the Salt Lake City-based health system. Patients can access the service 24/7 from home, offices or while traveling and receive care at just $49 a visit.

“Connect Care is part of our overall mission to provide healthcare to our patients at the best possible price,” Wayling tells Healthcare Dive.

On-demand services fit into Intermountain Healthcare’s overall care model as a patient access option and complements the system’s in-person care — supporting the nationwide shift to more patient-centric care, Wayling notes. He equates today’s embrace of telehealth services to what happened with online retail, travel and banking options a decade ago. “Once people understand when to use the service and are confident of the care quality, they quickly see the value and incorporate it into their options,” Wayling says.

“Many healthcare conditions like allergies, viruses, UTI and some pediatric conditions can be safely treated online from the convenience of the home.”

Brian Wayling

Assistant Vice President of Telehealth Services, Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare has seen positive cost benefits from its telehealth business, from avoiding medically unnecessary transfers to accessing medical specialists in rural locations and improving continuity of care management.

With Utah’s growing population, “we cannot physically build enough facilities to accommodate everyone,” Wayling says. “We view this as one piece of the population health puzzle that adds toward our vision of helping people live the healthiest lives possible.” 

Filed Under: Health IT Hospital Administration Practice Management
Top image credit: American Well