- Philips is teaming up with telehealth operator American Well to deliver virtual care to healthy consumers as well as patients who have a specific medical need, the company announced Monday.
- The goal is to embed telehealth services in a range of Philips solutions, targeting health and wellness, population health management and clinical programs.
- The first deployment will be on the Philips uGrow parenting app, providing parents on-demand access to healthcare professionals.
Virtual care is hot. Consumers are looking for convenient and less expensive ways to meet their healthcare needs, and telehealth often fits the bill.
Roughly three-fourths of healthcare organizations either offered or planned to offer telehealth services in 2017, according to a Foley & Lardner survey. That contrasts markedly from 2014, when 87% of survey respondents said they did not expect to be using telehealth by 2017.
Last year, Philips announced new enterprise telehealth software for ICUs. That was a few months after a report showed another eICU product from the company reduced hospitalizations by nearly 50% and lowered costs by about 35%. Boston-based American Well continues to forge telehealth partnerships and roll out products. Last April, it unveiled a new service that aims to help doctors with health insurance verification, billing and claims, coding and enrolling, among other tasks.
Health systems increasingly see telehealth as an asset — from monitoring patients and postdischarge followup to increasing workflow efficiencies and reducing costs. And they are lining up to offer telehealth services. American Well boasted some 70 health system partnerships at the end of 2016, up from three or four several years earlier.
And consumers want access to care that fits into their busy schedules. In an American Well survey last year, 20% of consumers said they would switch primary care providers to gain access to telehealth surveys.
However, despite telehealth’s potential to increase access to care and lower costs, reimbursement lags. But that is beginning to change. Medicare payments for telehealth in 2016 totaled about $28.8 million, up from $22.5 million the prior year. The number of telehealth claims also rose — from 372,518 in 2015 to 496,396 the following year, a 33% increase.
Medicaid is also starting to pay for telehealth services. Today, 39 state Medicaid programs reimburse for telehealth, according to the Center for Telehealth & eHealth Law. Fifteen states require private and public payers to cover virtual care services.