American Well Launches Telehealth App For Doctors To Connect With Their Patients

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Telehealth vendor American Well announces the release of a new app that will allow doctors to begin offering virtual consultations to their patients. The announcement came during the 20th annual American Telemedicine Association conference and tradeshow in Los Angeles this week.  Called AW8, the new app provides practices with access to American Well’s telehealth platform, which they can use to begin offering remote visits to their patients as a standard offering at their practice.

The new app will allow providers to support both on-demand visit requests and scheduled visits for their patients. American Well imagines the app will be used to help providers address the non-emergency urgent care needs of its patient populations, as well as expand chronic disease management services. In addition to expanding access to visits, the app also connects with Apple’s HealthKit API to capture data from connected medical devices, like glucometers and blood pressure cuffs. Providers will be able to use the app to consult with fellow doctors over a secure platform, which will expedite access to feedback from specialists in the primary care environment.

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Telehealth’s expansion in US healthcare is one with barriers at almost every turn. Most payors are leery of telehealth services, citing concerns that it will drive up healthcare utilization without reducing the overall cost of care, and are reluctant to reimburse for the services, though there are a growing number of payors that are beginning to rethink these policies under certain conditions. Telehealth expansions for Medicare are being actively debated in Congress. Last week, UnitedHealth announced that it will begin reimbursing for telehealth services for its customers. As a result, the early growth of telehealth services have been in the direct-to-consumer market where telehealth vendors are offering consultations paid for completely out-of-pocket by patients. Even in situations where the consultation is paid for out of pocket and no payor is involved, barriers exist. Licensing bodies, for example, have put restrictions in place to limit the growth of telehealth. In Texas, the Texas Medical Board has threatened to punish any providers that write prescriptions over telehealth platforms, citing requirements that consultations be face-to-face. The Texas Medical Board was recently sued for antitrust violations over these requirements, with telehealth vendors arguing that they unfairly and intentionally limit competition in the medical industry.

Financial details behind the new service offering were not immediately disclosed. American Well sells consultations on its apps directly to consumers for $49 per session, a rate that is more expensive than the typical office visit co-pay, and on par with the traditional emergency visit co-pay. To shift its business into the primary care market, fees would likely need to be similar to what a patient would pay for a typical in office co-pay.


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