Monday, August 8, 2016

CEO Spotlight: American Well's Roy Schoenberg on the U.S. coming out of a 10-year telehealth war zone |

During the past five years health information technology is going through a second wave of disruptive tecchnology. It has taken almost ten years to adopt electronic health records. Now telehealth and telemedicine has taken the lead in transition. This may be the greater of the two in terms of cost containment and increasing access to health care.

New technology places a greater regulatory challenge. Multiple regulatory agencies, such as licensing boards, and practice guidelines have long standing rules regarding patient care, including hands on examination for p hysical diagnosis.  In fact that requirement is in the legal medical record. There are certain medico-legal risks in regard to diagnosing and treating a patient without personal contact.  Telehealth is changing that model.

During the past two years change is occurring. Numerous state medical boards report reevaluating their rules about remote diagnosis.  The limitations were loosened in regard to rural and remote areas where health care is often unavailable.  Many of these networks are developed by a central health facilitty such as a hospital in a contiguous area and may be the only accessible source for health care.  These networks provide physicians supervision of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, or other certified health professionals such as emergency medical technicians.

After a long decade of struggle, the stars have aligned for telemedicine, according to Roy Schoenberg, MD,   And the understanding and acceptance of providers, payers and patients have united to the point where the electronic delivery of healthcare is poised to become part of the norm.

“First, medical authorities, policymakers, and healthcare’s movers and shakers have acknowledged that delivering healthcare through technology can be valuable and safe; that has been the war zone for the last 10 years of telehealth,” Schoenberg said. “Medical boards and medical associations were hesitant about embracing telehealth; physicians were concerned about diminishing the relationship they have with patients. But the experiences with telehealth during the last couple of years have been reassuring, and telehealth increasingly has become one of the ways physicians interact with patients.”
Second, insurance companies that while label American Well technology including Anthem, United Health Group and several of the big Blues have finally begun to take the stance that, like in any other industry, digital mechanisms are here to stay and will be a major part of the industry’s future; as a result, payers are getting on top of telehealth and discovering how to conduct such care safely, Schoenberg said.
And third, enough time has passed that telemedicine technology vendors have gained the experience – and learned lessons from mistakes – so that the vendors are completely capable of providing safe and comprehensive care via technology, Schoenberg said.
“Vendors have made corrections to the patient experience and physician usability, for example, and have learned how to foster intimacy in these kinds of healthcare encounters,” he explained. “Between the adoption of electronic delivery as a valid way of doing medicine, the payment structure, and all of the factors that affect the physician-patient experience, the stars have aligned to cause what we see today, which is a booming market.”
What’s more, telemedicine tools and practices are becoming more embedded into the routine delivery of care among providers that also white label American Well services such as Cleveland Clinic, Community Health System,  Intermountain, Miami Children’s Hospital, Providence Health System and others -- even employers are getting into the act, such as clients Oracle and Honeywell.
What are the next steps?
“From the patient standpoint, we will see very quickly the transition of telehealth from just the myopic quick urgent care example of finding a physician to prescribe antibiotics to something that envelops all of healthcare, especially patients who need serious longitudinal care and frequent interaction with physicians, which increasingly is tied into things like accountable care organizations,” Schoenberg said. “We will see telehealth serving as a part of the overall relationship with patients.”
No longer just the mother with a child in a stormy night who needs to see a physician kind of stuff,” he added. “Telehealth for ongoing clinical relationships will become the avalanche of this technology.”

CEO Spotlight: American Well's Roy Schoenberg on the U.S. coming out of a 10-year telehealth war zone | Healthcare IT News

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