Doctor choice enters the picture
Stevens says Kaiser is also working on developing options for members using telehealth to see their own primary care physicians at a later date, or choose instead to see a different physician on the same day.
This trend attracted major attention at the 2016 American Telemedicine Association conference. A number of providers, including the Cleveland Clinic and Nemours Children's Health System, participated in the launch of the American Well Exchange, a method of offering their services via American Well's LiveHealth Online platform, which offers live video consults with providers for treatment of common urgent care conditions around the clock. LiveHealth Online is operated by Health Management Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anthem Blue Cross. American Well partnered with LiveHealth Online in 2012.
In the case of Cleveland Clinic, patients accessing LiveHealth Online in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania can connect to Cleveland Clinic nurse practitioners via the Cleveland Clinic Express Care brand.
The alliance between Cleveland Clinic and American Well originated three years ago when Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Toby Cosgrove felt the organization needed a bigger telemedicine focus, according to Peter Rasmussen, MD, a Cleveland Clinic cerebral vascular neurosurgeon who also serves as medical director of distance health at the organization.
Rasmussen now heads up all Cleveland Clinic telemedicine efforts. He started Cleveland Clinic's own telestroke network, now active in more than a dozen sites in western Pennsylvania, Florida, and northeastern Ohio.
"We think that there isn't any aspect of medicine that can't have some component of it practiced via telemedicine or at a distance," Rasmussen says.
In keeping with the American Well LiveHealth Online direction as well as its own, Cleveland Clinic telemedicine customers can choose the provider they wish to see, as well as schedule interactions. Until now, most direct-to-consumer telemedicine services have not given patients the ability to choose which provider will see them.
"That really encompasses a broad range of almost everything that we do at the clinic, with patients being at home using their desktop, tablet, or mobile device," Rasmussen says.
Telemedicine also works well for follow-up patient visits, because many patients travel long distances to be treated at the Cleveland Clinic. "That keeps patients out of the facilities, and is a little bit more convenient for them at a lower cost and a better format for them," Rasmussen says.
Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.