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4/20/2011
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American Well Launches Telehealth For SMB Practices

For medical offices that lack IT muscle, Online Care for Providers offers two-way video, live chat, billing, and more.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
Telehealth provider American Well has unveiled Online Care for Providers, which enables medical practices nationwide to offer live, on-demand consultations to patients in their homes or workplaces using the Internet.

Launched Tuesday, Online Care for Providers, which is part of the company's Online Care suite of products, is aimed at small and midsize physician practices that lack the resources and IT expertise to store and maintain large volumes of patient data.

"This is really geared toward small and medium-size physician practices that don't have IT departments, they don't have technologists, they don't have servers, they don't have any of these assets that most of the large operators have," Roy Schoenberg, CEO of American Well Systems, said in an interview. "We've developed a solution that provides not only the capability to interact with and monitor their patients at home, but we also needed to come up with a solution for them that they can turn on very simply and very easily in an affordable way."

Company officials note that by shifting routine encounters and patient questions online, the program allows practices to reduce their staff's workload as well as make more exam rooms available for patients who need to be seen in person. American Well is promoting the online site as a tool that physicians can use to build their practice by offering telehealth services that increase revenue and flexibility while improving patient care. The program includes two-way video, text chat, telephone consultation, and fee-based messaging to patients.

According to the company, providers can convert patient interactions into structured, documented records that can be incorporated into electronic medical records.

The solution also provides a feature that allows credit card payments to be collected and automatically deposited into the physician's account. Physicians' inability to charge for telehealth services through health plans has long been seen as a barrier to telehealth adoption.

"Online Care for Providers allows physician practices to establish their own telehealth world where they can, from their practice or from home, engage with their own patients," said Schoenberg.

Schoenberg also said physician practices that sign up for the service will pay a monthly subscription fee based on how many users will access the system and what technology choices they make.

As the delivery of healthcare undergoes significant changes, and as the healthcare industry prepares for the establishment of accountable care organizations, Schoenberg said the tool can care for and follow up with at-risk patients in a more clinically effective and cost-effective manner, with simpler administration.

He noted that providers can use the system to improve "that very intimate relationship" between a doctor and his or her patients, particularly those with chronic conditions who require regular attention for their specific health needs.

Online Care for Providers incorporates Microsoft's HealthVault, an online consumer health platform, as well as IBM's security tools that perform tasks such as transmission security, authentication, and session management.

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