- Telehealth vendor American Well and tech conglomerate Cisco are joining up to expand virtual health options for older patients.
- Initial plans for the partnership include converting in-home television sets into patient portals for telehealth care delivery through American Well for care that's usually delivered in a hospital or skilled care facility.
- Though the two companies have yet to launch a product, any joint device will likely be HDMI compatible and allow for remote control by the care team, according to an American Well source.
Technology is among the factors driving care from traditional medical facilities like hospitals to the home and other parts of the community.
CMS finalized a rule in April giving Medicare Advantage plans greater flexibility in telehealth benefits for patients treated in their homes. The expansion of virtual services is meant to foster greater benefits at reduced costs and starts Jan. 1.
Over the past decade, MA membership has roughly doubled from 11.1 million people in 2010 to 22 million in 2019. About one-third of Medicare beneficiaries are in the privately-run Medicare plans.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates steady enrollment growth in MA over the next decade, rising to about 47% of all Medicare enrollees.
Though the two companies have yet to offer a concrete device, the work will take advantage of Cisco's tech infrastructure and video expertise. Eventual offerings could include a smart camera that identifies where the patient is regardless of lighting, according to an American Well source.
This tech will allow "doctors and nurses to use technology to knock on our door and visit us at home regularly," American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg said in a statement. "This will allow healthcare that previously warranted hospital admission or facility stay to take place in the home."
It could be useful in a variety of clinical scenarios, such as chronic care, cancer care or a check-in, the company said.
American Well contracts with more than 130 health systems on their telehealth offerings, and 150 million people have access to American Well services through their health plan, according to the company.
Telehealth adoption among private payers is growing as well. According to FAIR Health, private insurance claims for services rendered via telehealth as a percentage of all medical claim lines grew 53% nationally between 2016 and 2017.
And Comcast and Independence Blue Cross joined in April of last year on a similar pilot to deliver pre- and post-care support through the patient's TV.