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American Well CEO: Telehealth Must Integrate With the Home and the Hospital

Roy Schoenberg says telehealth vendors like American Well are moving away from stand-alone platforms and integrating with the smart home and the hospital's EHR.

By Eric Wicklund

- Up until now, consumer-facing telehealth platforms have primarily focused on a conversation between doctor and patient. But if telehealth is going to match the value of an in-person exam, it’s going to have to incorporate new data streams.

American Well’s newest partnership may offer proof of where telehealth is going next. The Boston-based company, one of the nation’s largest telehealth providers, is working with Tyto Care to connect its virtual care platform with FDA-approved, home-based diagnostic devices.

“We are working to capture more of those healthcare artifacts and integrate them into the mobile physician’s workflow,” says Roy Schoenberg, MD, American Well’s CEO. He says the deal enables doctors to gather medical-grade data from the telehealth visit, improving the medical record and helping to foster better outcomes.

“Our partnership with Tyto Care arms remote telehealth physicians with the physical examination they traditionally needed to safely diagnose, treat and follow medical conditions while the patient remains in their home,” Schoenberg said in a press release announcing the partnership. “This is a significant step forward for the telemedicine industry and further extends the scope and reach of safe digital healthcare delivery.”

Israel-based Tyto Care recently received FDA approval for two versions of its digital telehealth kit – TytoPro, a more complex device designed for clinicians, and TytoHome, an easier-to-use, handheld device for the home market.

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Schoenberg said American Well chose Tyto Care because its TytoHome kit is designed with consumer engagement in mind.

“No doctor wants to spend half an hour trying to tell [patients at home] how to use their medical devices,” he says. “They want something that patients will use themselves, before they speak with their doctors. This empowers the patient to take more control” of his or her health data and be a more active part of the telehealth visit.

“We want this to be a success in the home,” Dedi Gilad, Tyto Care’s co-founder and CEO, told mHealthIntelligence.com earlier this year. As the consumer asserts more control over his or her healthcare expenses, he said, devices and platforms that can take healthcare out of the doctor’s office and replicate it in the home setting will become popular.

“By enabling a physical examination that virtually replicates an in-person visit, TytoCare will greatly enhance the ability of school-based clinics, nurses, home health providers, patients and family caregivers to connect and share medical information,” added Karen S. Rheuban, MD, a former president of the American Telemedicine Association and chairman of Tyto Care’s advisory board. “The use of digital technologies that support high quality remote examinations, when integrated into care delivery models that enhance access both within the context of the medical home and in other settings, promises to transform how patients are treated today.”

The Tyto Care deal follows on the heels of American Well’s announcement that its online care service can be accessed through Cerner’s electronic health record platform. Schoenberg says the two announcements point to an evolution in the market: Telehealth is moving from a stand-alone platform to one that integrates more actively with the home and the health system.

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“EMRs capture everything that happens within the hospital,” he points out, “while telehealth has been designed to capture everything that happens outside the hospital. There is a recognition now that these two sides have to integrate.”

Schoenberg says the Cerner-American Well announcement isn’t new – telehealth vendors and EHR providers have been working together for years – but it signals an understanding that the two groups have to work together to combine the patient care experience. Whereas EHR providers once thought of telehealth as nothing more than a simple video visit between a doctor and a patient, they’re now recognizing that the platform has evolved to a more robust encounter.

“EMRs are not going to try and become consumer-friendly,” he says, noting that they’re designed solely for the clinician. The idea is to create a bridge from the hospital to the home so that a telehealth doctor can bring in data from the telehealth visit or draw data from the patient’s medical record for use in clinical decision support.

“Cerner and American Well share the belief that all aspects of healthcare delivery should be unified, continuous and patient-centered,” Don Bisbee, Cerner’s senior vice president, said in a press release announcing the partnership last month. “Together, we’re committed to developing a long-term strategy to align American Well’s telehealth technologies, services and programs to deliver an enhanced user experience within the Cerner EHR and ecosystem.”

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