- Telehealth providers are starting 2018 with a bang, with a trio of announcements aimed at the integration of direct-to-consumer and clinical telehealth and global expansion.
Two of the bigger names in the industry, American Well and Philips, announced a partnership today that is designed to embed American Well’s telehealth capabilities into Philips’ consumer-facing digital health platforms, beginning with an mHealth app designed for parents with young children.
The deal is also expected to open Boston-based American Well’s product line to international expansion – a goal accentuated by the announcement of a $59.2 investment by Allianz, a Munich-based financial services company with access to more than 800,000 healthcare providers around the world. Allianz and American Well officials said they will work together to integrate American Well’s telehealth technology into remote monitoring programs, virtual visit platforms and wearables for new markets.
“Advancing global health digitally is a big mission, and one that we cannot accomplish alone,” Ido Schoenberg, MD, American Well’s chairman and CEO, said in a press release. “Our scalable telehealth platform and partnership ecosystem are key to any global solution.”
The two announcements follow by just a few days another major partnership in the telehealth industry.
Last week, California-based InTouch Health announced plans to acquire TruClinic, a Salt lake City-based developer of direct-to-consumer telehealth platforms now in use in communities from San Diego to Morocco. The partnership is expected to create a telehealth platform for health providers who want to leverage their own practitioners in a consumer-facing service.
The InTouch Health-TruClinic deal continues a trend spotted during the last two years by connected care experts, who noticed that health systems are gravitating toward branded or in-house telehealth platforms that leverage their own provider base.
“Telehealth is best used as part of a continuum of services,” Ralph Derrickson, president and CEO of Carena, a Seattle-based company that works with health systems to develop their own telehealth platforms, said in a 2016 interview with mHealthIntelligence.com. “We should be thinking of handling a patient in the context of the entire healthcare system.”
“When people do not feel well, they turn to their health system, their health provider, their doctor,” says Derrickson. “They have a trusted relationship, and it’s up to the health system to build on and preserve that relationship.”
For InTouch Health, a Santa Barbara-based company known for its work with telemedicine robots, and with partnerships in place with more than 130 healthcare providers, the deal gives the company access to a consumer-facing platform being used for populations as diverse as Native American communities and college students with behavioral health issues.
“Historically, telehealth providers offer only a solution for a segment of the patient care continuum,” the two companies said in a joint press release. “This has forced health systems to acquire and integrate solutions from multiple vendors, often creating interoperability challenges for physicians to care for their patients as well as data management continuity for health systems. InTouch Health will incorporate TruClinic’s software into its offering such that patients can now initiate and receive a consult with their health system physician from their home, further extending InTouch Health’s unified telehealth solution across the continuum of care, and solving this frustrating problem for physicians.”
American Well, meanwhile, is targeting both digital health and international expansion with its two deals, announced this week. And unlike the InTouch Health-TruClinic collaboration, American Well is highlighting its own network of providers in these deals.
In the Philips partnership, the company is combining its telehealth platform with Philips’ growing network of health and wellness, population health and clinical-facing programs. This deal targets the growing market for on-demand access to clinical services.
“Partnering with American Well to deliver highly personalized virtual care solutions to consumers and healthcare professionals fits Philips' vision of 24/7, coordinated care across the health continuum – the right care delivered at the right time in the right place,” Jeroen Tas, Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer for the Netherlands-based Philips, said in a press release.
An example of that is the Philips Avent UGrow parenting app. The app is designed to help parents monitor the development of their infant by connecting with smart devices such as the Philips Avent smart baby monitor and feeding kit and, later this year, Amazon Echo. With American Well, that platform will soon enable parents to connect at any time with a healthcare provider to share data and receive guidance.
That collaboration is indicative of a growing line of mHealth and telehealth platforms addressing the needs of expecting and new parents. They’re designed to offer advice and guidance to a population often stressed out and unsure of what to do – and who will often rush to the doctor’s office or ER in situations that an on-demand link to a pediatrician might easily solve.
Beyond the UGrow collaboration, the deal will allow Philips to integrate the American Well software development kit into its HealthSuite digital health platform, adding on-demand virtual consults to the roster of services. Philips will also join the American Well Exchange, an online marketplace of telehealth and mobile health services for consumers and providers.
While the partnership with Philips opens the company to international expansion, that goal may be more easily realized in the Allianz deal. Along with a $59.2 million investment, Allianz X, the digital investment unit of the German company, will have a place on American Well’s Board of Directors and is expected to help guide the company’s growth into markets outside the US.
“Allianz X’s investment with American Well will result in better access, lower cost and more connected care for our customers through a leading-edge health platform,” Solmaz Altin, Chief Digital Officer of the Allianz Group, said in a statement. “This collaboration emphasizes Allianz’s commitment to digitalization, our goal of investing in digital frontrunners and encourages advancements within the whole healthcare ecosystem.”