CHS will initially market Partners' Online Specialty Consultation Services to its Fortune 500 customers across the country. Employees of companies that buy the service will be able to get second opinions from the 4,000 specialists who work at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women's Hospital, Partners' flagship institutions in Boston.
CHS expects that this service will attract corporations that have employees in remote office locations who don't have access to a worksite clinic.
Employees who use Partners' 10-year-old online consulting service must request consultations through local physicians, said Joseph Kvedar, MD, president of the Center for Connected Medicine, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. The main purpose is to ensure that patients receive better care, he said. But they can also receive specialty consultations by having doctors at worksite clinics ping the Partners consultants.
Kvedar expects that CHS customers will initially choose the second-opinion service over more extensive telemedicine consults that involve videoconferencing. So at the start, CHS will offer video hookups between worksite clinics and Partners' specialists only to employers in Massachusetts, where the healthcare organization is licensed to provide remote consultations. But according to Kvedar, if there is demand for this service in other states, Partners could obtain the necessary licenses.
"Videoconferencing is a good tool for when you want to simulate an office session," he pointed out. In addition, he noted, "It would be easy for employers to see the value of using videoconferencing, because it's all about productivity. They want employees to get the care they need quickly so they can return to work."
Eventually, Kvedar said, Partners would like their specialists to go online with worksite clinics, with clinic doctors perhaps sending patient data from their electronic health records to Partners' EHR in the form of a Continuity of Care Document (CCD). But at the outset, he said, patient data is likely to be faxed to the specialists.
Partners has a lot of competition in the online consulting space. Established firms like American Well and TelaDoc already offer online consultations with physicians, and UnitedHealth Group recently launched Now Clinic, which also provides the service. The Cleveland Clinic also has an online "second-opinion" service called MyConsult.
The use of telemedicine in worksite clinics has a precedent as well: Cisco has piloted remote consultations in its own worksite clinics, using its HealthPresence system. And late last year, Cisco partnered with Walgreens to market the system to other large corporations with onsite clinics. Walgreens' Take Care Health Systems claims to be the largest operator of worksite and retail clinics in the U.S.
Kvedar said that under its deal with CHS, the Center for Connected Medicine (CCH) will advise the firm on its future directions in telemedicine. Asked about the possibility of home monitoring, in which CCH has considerable expertise, Kvedar responded that it's a "leap" to home monitoring from providing basic primary care in the workplace. However, he also acknowledged that many employees of big companies have expensive chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.
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