American Well Gets it Together

House calls might be on the rise again, but not in the form your grandparents remember. American Well, through webcams and telephony, allows physicians to connect with patients online.

Physicians make themselves available whenever they have time, with no prior notice. A doctor’s time is billed at $40 per 10 minute consult (though rates vary, especially for specialists). Physicians are protected from credit risk; per-consultation malpractice insurance is included.

Consumers can select a doctor based on language, gender or a slew of other qualifications. The system offers immediate and secure access in real time. To ensure continuity of care, American Well will forward a summary of the conversation to a patient’s primary care physician.

Like any device company, the key to American’s success is reimbursement. So far, Hawaii Blue Cross Blue Shield and its million-or-so members are on board.

E-visits are reimbursed through new standardized billing codes that allow physicians to get paid for online consultations. American Well takes a portion of any fees that pass between the doctor and insurer (American also charges an up-front licensing fee).

The shift to care from home, away from higher-cost in-person settings, could help lower medical costs for insurers. And because all data is kept online, the system offers seamless claim submission.

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, American Well was founded in 2006 by Roy and Ido Schoenberg. The Schoenbergs founded CareKey (now TriZetto’s CareAdvance) for care management and iMDsoft’s MetaVision for critical care.

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