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Telehealth Platforms Move From Connected Care to Connected Health

As the Connected Health Conference and Xtelligent Healthcare Media's Value-Based Care Summit convene this week in Boston, telehealth and telemedicine advocates will be talking about the move to enterprise care platforms.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- The value of a connected care platform lies in connecting everyone to that platform. In telehealth and telemedicine programs, this means adopting an enterprise-wide strategy.

As healthcare providers and executives converge on Boston this week for several conferences, headlined by Partners Healthcare’s Connected Health Conference and Xtelligent Healthcare Media’s Value-Based Care Summit, the focus is on connecting the dots – connecting value to delivery, data to outcomes and consumers to the care they want and need. Telehealth advocates say this happens most effectively when the entire healthcare network is connected to the same platform.

“As we are broadening the utility of telemedicine, we’re naturally going in that direction,” says Dave Skibinski, co-founder, CEO and President of SnapMD, a Los Angeles-based telehealth provider that works with health systems to develop enterprise connected care platforms. “This is where (providers) can make the greatest impact.”

The move toward an all-in-one approach represents an evolution in telehealth and telemedicine. When hospitals and health systems first tried out the technology, they focused on small programs serving specific conditions or populations, so as to collect data and prove ROI before scaling up. But now that the field has matured, providers are looking to bring all those disparate programs and services together in one cloud-based ecosystem.

“There’s higher cost if you’re running condition-specific platforms or if you’re running multiple platforms because that’s how you’ve always done it,” says Skibinski, who’s giving a presentation on Friday titled “A Complete Health System in the Cloud” at the Connected Health Conference. “But now they’re seeing an overlap in the technology.”

“If everything is a one-off project, there is no efficiency in it,” he adds.

To wit: primary care exams, pediatric exams and post-discharge follow-ups often involve the same processes, but with different providers. Why not create one adaptable platform that can accommodate all of these services?

The move toward an enterprise telehealth platform gained steam at this year’s American Telemedicine Association conference in Chicago, where two of the industry’s biggest vendors – American Well and InTouch Health announced acquisitions of smaller, more specialized companies designed to bring a range of services together on one platform. Another big player in the field, Teladoc, took that one step further in June with a partnership aimed at addressing the global market.

Health systems have followed along this path as well. Intermountain Health and Providence St. Joseph Health launched initiatives this year to bring their connected care services together on one platform.

Healthcare providers “are looking to bring their virtual care delivery system all under one roof,” Yulun Wang, PhD, InTouch Health’s, Chairman, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, told mHealthIntelligence earlier this year at the ATA conference. They’re moving away from telehealth and telemedicine programs that are started in one department or campus and looking for an overarching platform that can handle everything from high-acuity care to consumer-facing services to the growing field of remote patient monitoring.

Expect that trend to continue not only as large health systems consolidate their telehealth services, but as smaller hospitals and health systems merge or create new partnerships to bring their programs together under one virtual roof, as Dignity Health and the University of California-San Francisco Health System announced in August.

Skibinski sees this trend also influencing how healthcare providers envision the care continuum. As enterprise telehealth platforms become more adept, he says, they’ll add services that go beyond the traditional healthcare spectrum, incorporating wellness, nutrition, mental health, social services, family planning, even pastoral care. And they’ll move toward remote patient monitoring programs to handle more of these services at home.

“They’re recognizing how strategic telemedicine and virtual care services have become,” he says. “But the only way you can deliver these types of services to the masses is with a systemic approach.”

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