American Well automates phone consults

A patient contacts the plan's site, which links to American Well, inputs their data, and then goes online with whoever is on call. The plan arranges the schedules. Doctors work when and how much they want.

Roy Schoenberg, CEO American WellWhen I saw a press release calling American Well the online marketplace for health care, it sounded very me-too.

It's not.

As CEO  Roy Schoenberg explained it's a sort of poor man's Carena, only working through health plans instead of corporate clients.

Here's how it works.

From its Boston base American Well signs up health plans, who in turn bring both their doctors and patients to the party. The first health plan to sign up is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii, also known as the Hawaii Medical Services Association.

A patient contacts the plan's site, which links to American Well, inputs their data, and then goes online with whoever is on call. The plan arranges the schedules. Doctors work when and how much they want.

Technology is important on several levels.

  1. The paid conference can be a web conference, not just a phone call.
  2. The physician gains access to the patient's Electronic Medical Record (EMR) through the plan, and can add data the patient has given his PHR through monitors.
  3. American Well integrates with the health plans' back-end for billing and follow-up.

"This service is deployed by health plans," Schoenberg explained. "We're the technology under the hood. That means the health plan is exposing its existing networks. It's not for Dr. Joe Schmoe. The health plan's network accredits the doctor.

"It brings to the online environment the capabilities consumers have today to interact with good quality physicians through their health plan. It is the same providers the health plan trusted."

In addition to the Hawaii contract, American Well has a collaboration agreement with Microsoft HealthVault. Schoenberg said that's not an exclusive contract. So if your PHR is run through Google, they should eventually be able to serve you. 

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