VA launches online consultations with American Well

By Chris Gullo
11:33 am
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American Well iPhone appThe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it had inked a deal with American Well to deploy the telehealth vendor's online care system for veterans, particularly those in rural areas of the US.

American Well's service will enable veterans and their care providers to have online consultations via video, text, and phone messaging. The VA is creating three online practices to make up the new initiative, they include:

  • The Minneapolis VA Health Care System (MHCS)'s Behavioral Health Practice will create an online practice that remotely provides mental health services.
  • The Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System (NWIHCS)'s Oncology Practice will create an online practice that brings together healthcare providers from the Omaha VA Medical Center (VAMC) with cancer patients across the state, including many who live in rural areas.
  • The NWIHCS will also establish an online perioperative practice that brings post-operative care to patients with support from a home-based primary and extended care team.

American Well quietly launched an iPhone app for its Online Care offering at the end of August. The app, called Online Care Mobile is free and designed to be used by both iPhone and iPad users. The app is intended for use by healthcare providers who use the American Well Online Care platform with patients. The app enables users to read and send secure messages, see the day's appointments, see who’s in the waiting room, and receive notifications and reminders. The VA announcement makes no mention of the app, but it is likely the VA would take advantage of it.

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In October, the VA announced plans to acquire as many as 100,000 tablets, primarily for use by their medical clinicians staff, marking one of the largest such deployments by a civilian agency. A few weeks ago -- before the iPad deployment began to roll out -- one of the unopened iPads was stolen from the VA, according to a GovHealthIT report.

“VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the highest quality, most patient-centric care possible – and we see technology as a critical enabler in our mission,” stated Jonah Czerwinski, director of VAi2, in a press release. “This initiative with American Well will allow VA to use telehealth to deliver needed care directly into the homes of veterans, who might otherwise struggle with barriers such as distance, mobility or the need to take time away from work or family.”

As we reported earlier this year, patient-to-physician video consultations are President Obama's favorite use case for mobile health.

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Read the press release below.

PRESS RELEASE -- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and American WellTM today announced an initiative to bring telehealth services to U.S. Veterans in their homes, workplaces and other convenient locations, following an award from the VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) Industry Innovation Competition. This initiative will focus on using American Well’s Online Care system and aims to make needed care more accessible, convenient and efficacious for Veterans, particularly those remotely located from VA medical centers. The agreement marks the first deployment of American Well’s telehealth technology by the U.S. government.

“VA is dedicated to providing Veterans with the highest quality, most patient-centric care possible – and we see technology as a critical enabler in our mission,” said Jonah Czerwinski, director of VAi2. “This initiative with American Well will allow VA to use telehealth to deliver needed care directly into the homes of Veterans, who might otherwise struggle with barriers such as distance, mobility or the need to take time away from work or family.”

The Online Care service will aim to improve access by allowing Veterans to have online visits with their own providers, as well as multi-disciplinary care teams when needed, through the Internet. Using two-way video, secure text chat and/or phone, providers will be able to review patients’ clinical information, discuss symptoms, provide medical advice, and diagnose and prescribe medications as appropriate. At the end of each online consultation, a record will be captured automatically that the Veteran can share with appropriate healthcare providers, maintaining continuity of care.

Specifically, American Well’s initiative with VA will result in the use of its telehealth solution to establish three “online practices” to benefit Veterans:

In Minnesota, the Minneapolis VA Health Care System (MHCS) will establish an online Behavioral Health Practice that allows its providers to treat existing patients who are remotely located from the MHCS, with the goal of increasing the patient-centeredness of mental health services treatment, while improving Veterans’ access to convenient and affordable care.

In Nebraska, the Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System (NWIHCS) will establish an online Oncology Practice to bring healthcare providers from the Omaha VA Medical Center (VAMC) together with cancer patients across the state, many of whom live in rural areas and are currently required to drive long distances for their appointments.

The NWIHCS will also establish an online Perioperative Practice to allow surgeons to deliver post-operative care to patients via Online Care, as part of a collaborative team that also includes staff providing home-based primary and extended care.

“VA is renowned for embracing the latest technologies in service of those who have served our country. We are honored to work with them and support the provision of quality, accessible healthcare for Veterans,” said Danielle Russella, executive vice president of customer solutions at American Well. “Moreover, this announcement marks an important new phase in American Well’s growth – working with the government to bring care into patients’ homes, at a time when telehealth is increasingly recognized as a pillar of improved healthcare delivery across the U.S.”


About VAi2

The VA Innovation Initiative (VAi2) selects, funds, and evaluates new ideas from VA employees, academia and the private sector. For more information, go to http://www.va.gov/vai2/.

About American Well

American WellTM brings healthcare into the homes and workplaces of patients. Its Online Care Suite is the industry’s leading telehealth solution, connecting providers and patients for live, immediate, and clinically meaningful encounters using the Web or phone. With its patented technology, the Online Care Suite removes traditional barriers to healthcare access – such as geography, mobility, and time constraints – while enabling providers to deliver quality care in a flexible, convenient manner, generating revenue along the way.

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