Virtual clinics step toward Telehealth 2.0

From the mHealthNews archive
By Tom Sullivan

Has telehealth reached a milestone?

A number of new platforms are coming to market that extend the reach toward patients or physicians - or both. And the people making those technologies suggest that answer is “yes.”

A trio of virtual clinic vendors revealed new offerings last week, and though each takes a different avenue, they are all driving toward a more patient- and physician-friendly world.

Carena and VirtuMedix announced new partnerships that expand providers’ reach, while American Well unwrapped a fresh iteration of its service tuned specifically for physicians.

Carena revealed that the University of Washington’s UW Medicine, Integris Health in Oklahoma City, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and Hospital Sisters Health System in Springfield, Ill. will begin offering virtual clinics for urgent care via computers, smartphones or tablets.

“The treatment is available on the patient’s terms when and where they need it, eliminating time away from work, cancelled business trips, family vacations and other hassles created by poor availability,” Carena CEO Ralph Derrickson said.

[mHealth masters: A call for EHR makers to catch up.]

VirtuMedix, for its part, announced that walk-in-clinic Doc-Aid will be using the VirtuMedix platform to enable Doc-Aid physicians to conduct telemedicine visits with patients via computers, smartphones or tablets.

“We understand the importance of convenience and accessibility for our patients,” said Doc-Aid Chief Medical Officer Monica Saenz, MD. She said the cloud-based platform extends doctors’ reach into patient homes and workplaces, or while they’re travelling.

“We believe that our patients will find great value in this service,” she said.

The idea is that if patients consider telehealth attractive to use, they will continue seeking care there. And that, in turn, is valuable to providers — which is the direction that American Well is steering with its new AW8.

American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg told mHealth News that AW8 can “put telehealth in the physician’s pocket,” including services spanning the gamut from billing and collecting to e-prescribing, scheduling, real-time collaboration and video visits.

And what of Telehealth 2.0, a term that has been bandied about it in the past if not exactly settled upon?

Certainly it should improve the lives of both patients and physicians. Schoenberg sees that happening with mobile platforms that equip doctors for long-term relationships with patients that bolster continued care management. Derricskon, on the other hand, pointed to the lower costs of treating ER and urgent care patients virtually, rather than in-house.

Cost is among but not the only reason Derrickson said Carena and its customers are working to prepare the virtual clinic for “all aspects of care delivery” in value-based reimbursement models.

"The technology has to envelop you,” Schoenberg said. “The whole machinery of a physician's practice has to reside on the smartphone."

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