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9/7/2011
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Health Monitoring Data Supplements Telehealth Capabilities

American Well and Numera partner to help doctors better track chronically ill patients and initiate early intervention when needed.

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Health IT providers American Well and Numera are partnering to integrate home health monitoring capabilities into remote patient/doctor telehealth visits.

The collaboration between American Well and Numera will allow patients who monitor chronic health conditions--including taking readings from home medical devices for glucose, blood pressure, weight, and breathing--to send this data in near real time to remote doctors during live online visits utilizing American Well's Online Care Suite.

Numera's Food and Drug Administration-cleared gateway technology allows patient information from a range of consumer biometric devices to be sent into American Well's telehealth system, which allows live encounters between remote patient and physicians via the Web.

By being able to access a patient's biometric data during telehealth visits, healthcare providers will have more information to base diagnosis and treatment decisions.

The combined American Well and Numera technologies can also allow caregivers, such as case manager nurses and physicians, to initiate remote patient encounters in the ongoing care of chronically ill patients, said Dr. Roy Schoenberg, CEO of American Well in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

For instance, when case managers remotely monitor patients with chronic conditions, such as heart failure, managers can determine when individuals are experiencing symptoms that might merit a telehealth visit with a caregiver to provide live feedback, coaching, or other intervention, Schoenberg said.

These kinds of interventions will be increasingly important as healthcare reform continues to unfold, especially as payments to healthcare providers are tied more closely to patient outcomes and quality of care, he said. For instance, emerging accountable care organizations will be paid based on the outcome of patients with specific conditions, rather than on the more traditional fee-for-service model.

"Those who take the risk of patients' health, of having skin in the game, will be looking for ways to allow patients to be better monitored" so that signs of preventable complications can be discovered and avoided sooner, instead of conditions worsening and patients landing in emergency rooms or needing lengthy hospitalizations, he said.

"For many reasons, no one does house calls anymore, but technology can allow physicians to see and monitor patients remotely," Schoenberg said.

In fact, the collaboration between American Well and Numera "wasn't our idea," Schoenberg admitted. Rather the telemedicine collaboration was initiated by "a large client who said 'we need to do this,'" he said.

That client is interested in improving care for and outcomes of patients with chronic illnesses, he said.

Among American Well's clients are insurers--including UnitedHealth, WellPoint, and several Blue Cross Blue Shield organizations--that cover telehealth visits between patients and doctors using American Well technology. Schoenberg declined to name the client that suggested American Well and Numera partner.

Meanwhile, in addition to its collaboration with American Well, Numera also has pacts with a number of other companies. Those other partners include healthcare IT products and services providers, including vendors of electronic medical record and personal health record systems such as Epic and Microsoft, allowing data from biometric devices to be integrated into patients' digital health record said Tony Titus, Numera VP of sales and marketing in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare.

"We interface with many different consumer biometric devices," said Titus. The use of those health products to monitor patients remotely is "exploding," he said. "They're part of everything we're seeing happening with healthcare reform," he said.

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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