American Well, Samsung partner to expand healthcare marketplace, delivery system

By Heather Mack

Telemedicine provider American Well and Samsung Electronics are collaborating to create a new level of healthcare service in regards to consumer reach, interoperability and accessibility, the two companies announced at HIMSS 17 in Orlando today, but they aren’t yet disclosing what that end user experience will look like.

While both companies were short on specifics, they described the partnership as one presenting a “tremendous opportunity,” that will leverage Samsung’s leadership position in consumer electronics with American Well’s enterprise telehealth service called the Exchange, which the company launched last year. The Exchange allows payers and providers who use white-labeled American Well telehealth services to offer their care to one another, allowing the end user to access healthcare from brands they are already know and trust.

“This isn’t telemedicine, this is a connected healthcare ecosystem,” American Well CEO and President Dr. Roy Schoenberg told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “And we’ve been building up so that is bigger than anything we have done, and what Samsung is saying is, ‘I’m not going to build healthcare on my product, I’m going to tap into that ecosystem and open the door through technology that touches a lot of people.”

Echoing that, American Well Chairman Dr. Ido Schoenberg said the partnership will bring new levels of accessibility and ease of use to both consumers and the healthcare industry.

“This collaboration is the next major step in the evolution of integrated care delivery and will have a sweeping impact on the whole healthcare ecosystem, providers, payers, and patients included,” Schoenberg said in a statement.

Creating this healthcare ecosystem– however that may look – is a big move for both companies. Samsung has been working to insert itself more firmly in healthcare, but previously hasn’t quite established it’s role in the industry. In January, it was rumored that Samsung’s S Health app, which is mostly a wellness play, may be updated to add doctor’s visits, telemedicine and symptom checker features through partnerships with American Well and WebMD, and Samsung news site SamMobile reported the rumored S Health update (along with the release of the Galaxy S8 later this month) would feature a “deep integration” that would allow for video visits and information storage, although neither company shared specifics expanding on that rumor.

 “Mobile technology offers the promise to empower consumers and simplify how healthcare is delivered,” Harry Kim, Samsung Mobile Health Business Lead, said in a statement. “Our partnership with American Well is an exciting opportunity to innovate new experiences that improve health and business outcomes.”

Samsung received an FDA clearance for S Health in 2014 but haven’t yet added any features that would require it. The company launched the S Health app for Galaxy S III to users in the UK in the summer of 2012, with the ability to receive data from a few connected medical devices, but it was never available in the US. Rather than signifying a move to bring all of those different efforts together under one roof, the American Well partnership shows Samsung’s ability to connect the last mile to the healthcare ecosystem, Schoenberg said.

“This is an approach we haven’t seen before from a consumer electronic company,” said Schoenberg. “It isn’t Samsung saying ‘me too’, it’s a very different animal, allowing that healthcare ecosystem door to open to their users. They aren’t trying to reinvent the healthcare system or create their own Samsung healthcare hospital.”

Some of American Well’s health system and health plan partners are also playing an active role in the initial development phase of the collaboration, including New York Presbyterian, Anthem, and the Cleveland Clinic, the latter two of whom were both early adopters of the Exchange.

“Over the last year, New York Presbyterian has seen an outpouring of positive feedback from both patients and physicians on our digital health initiatives,” Dr. Steven J. Corwin, President and CEO of NewYork Presbyterian, said in a statement. “We recognize that this is the future of healthcare, and we’re proud to work with American Well and Samsung as we continue to advance these services for patients in New York and around the world.” 
American Well and Samsung will be sharing more information in the coming months, but Schoenberg said the fact that Anthem, Cleveland Clinic and New York Presbyterian are already on board should demonstrate the new initiative is well-poised to deliver on its promise.

“You will find the largest representatives of both of these worlds – the two pillars of providers and insurance – are in there,” he said. “And I can tell you that there is a lot more than this. We have all the usual suspects, everything that you as an American use to get healthcare. This is much different than anything else we have done, and just like Amazon started off with books and ended up as an ecosystem for retail, this is probably the birth point for something like that in healthcare.”