BOSTON, Jan. 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Access to healthcare providers via telehealth services grew rapidly in 2011, as increasing numbers of consumers gained the ability to conduct online visits from their homes or workplaces – promising improved access to quality care at a low cost. American Well™ today shared details about the growth the company experienced in 2011, including significant advances in its Online Care system and expansion into new markets. By the end of the year, American Well's customers had made telehealth services powered by Online Care available in states representing more than half of the U.S. population.
"2011 was a transformative year for American Well, and for the acceptance of telehealth among consumers, providers and leading healthcare organizations alike. Telehealth became increasingly central to addressing the twin challenges our healthcare system faces: improving access and lowering cost," said Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, CEO of American Well Systems. "American Well has tremendous plans in store for 2012, including significant extensions of our Online Care system and its deployment around the globe."
More Than Half of U.S. Consumers Gain Access to Online Care Telehealth
In 2011, Online Care arrived in new states from coast to coast, joining those with existing telehealth services including Hawaii, Minnesota and New York. For example, OptumHealth's NowClinic online care service grew from three to 22 states during the course of the year, entering new geographies including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Taken together, American Well-powered services are now available in states accounting for nearly 55 percent of the U.S. population.
"Telehealth is a central part of OptumHealth's vision for providing consumers with convenient, innovative ways to access the quality healthcare they need – on their own terms. We view our NowClinic online care service as a pillar of efforts to help consumers achieve their health and well-being goals," said Rob Webb, chief executive officer of OptumHealth Care Solutions. "American Well's Online Care system remains a leader in this market, and we will continue to roll it out to new states via our NowClinic service in the year ahead."
Last year also saw the expansion of Online Care outside of the U.S., through American Well's first international deal with Medibank in Australia and New Zealand. Medibank is Australia's largest integrated provider of private health insurance and health solutions. With one of the most dispersed populations in the world, Australia is highly focused on providing equal access to quality healthcare for its residents no matter their location – and telehealth is seen as a key vehicle for improving that access.
An Innovative New Service Fuels Adoption by Employers
Even as Online Care entered new states, American Well customers significantly expanded their footprints in existing geographies. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) – the first health company to adopt Online Care in the continental U.S., and the first to bring it to employers – launched an innovative new service designed for its groups. Blue Cross began offering employers the ability to purchase subscriptions to its Online Care Anywhere telehealth service, that give employees and family members unlimited, free online visits with physicians.
"Online Care is another example of rethinking what healthcare looks like and the innovation Blue Cross brings to Minnesotans to help them lead healthier lives," said Kathy Dunmire, vice president product management, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. "Employers recognize the value, and have responded positively to our new, convenient service. Within a few months, a wide range of employers have signed up, from small family businesses to Fortune 500 corporations, representing private, public, and educational sectors."
Employer demand for the service was further enhanced by Blue Cross data demonstrating the positive impact of telehealth. In a survey, 85 percent of consumers said their Online Care Anywhere visits completely resolved their medical issues, with a similar number saying that they would have visited a more expensive care setting (e.g., an urgent care center, provider office or ER). A full 90 percent of consumers said they saved work and personal time as a result of using the service.
New Industries Embrace Telehealth
Until 2011, American Well had primarily worked with health plans to bring Online Care to consumers. Last year, new industries adopted its Online Care system to launch telehealth services. These included:
- Government—The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs selected American Well for a VAi2 Industry Innovation award marking the first deployment of American Well's telehealth technology by the U.S. government. The initiative will focus on making needed care more accessible, convenient and efficacious for Veterans, particularly those remotely located from VA medical centers.
- Retail pharmacies—Customers Rite Aid and OptumHealth partnered to launch physician-led care in select stores in greater Detroit—the first virtual clinics in a retail pharmacy setting. NowClinic now offers Rite Aid customers real-time access to medical services, information and resources in a convenient neighborhood setting where they can address an array of healthcare needs under one roof.
Leading the Way in Technology Innovation
American Well expanded its Online Care system deeper into the doctor's office in 2011 with the addition of "practice capabilities," which allow providers to extend their existing brick-and-mortar practices online, or join forces and establish practices that exist only online – for example, around a targeted population such as diabetics. An online practice allows providers to have visits with current and new patients, coordinating care more efficiently while establishing a foundation for new income-generating services. The product was honored with a gold medal at the prestigious 2011 Edison Best New Product Awards™, in the category of Health, Wellness and Safety.
In 2011, American Well also:
- Launched Online Care For Providers, a telehealth solution derived from the Online Care system but tailored specifically for standalone and small medical practices, which allows physicians to deliver patient care through the Web. One of the first adopters was health management company Patient Advocates, which announced it will connect patients in Maine with highly skilled specialists located in Boston and other medical centers.
- Inked partnerships with Numera to integrate telehealth with home monitoring devices, and Vidyo, to ensure an even more personal, face-to-face experience through its high definition, low latency VidyoConferencing solution.
About American Well
American Well™ 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.
Julie Sculley or Dave McKee
SOURCE American Well