Will Digital Care Be An Issue For Primary Care Practices?


It’s no wonder telehealth has grown in popularity. Patients hop on their device of choice, connect with a provider via phone call or video conference and win out by saving on time, travel and cost. But patients and the digital providers serving them aren’t the only ones who see the potential. Hospitals and health systems are increasingly taking medical care online as well.

Cleveland Clinic, for example, has announced intentions of adding to its consumer telehealth program. The nonprofit academic medical center and one of the largest hospitals in the nation began its program in 2014 to provide visits for acute conditions such as cough and cold, flu, asthma, rashes and minor back or shoulder pain.

Now there are plans to add dermatology and behavioral health to its offerings and intentions to expand telehealth from 14 to 25 states by the end of the year. After that, the next big move will likely include the treatment of chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Cleveland Clinic plans to continue to use American Well as its software vendor while shifting over to the use of its own providers to conduct the visits.

It is one example of a larger movement underway.

When American Well launched in 2006, its business focused mainly on direct-to-consumer offerings. Now, the telehealth giant and others like it— MDLive, Teladoc, and Doctor on Demand—as well as a smattering of smaller startups have set their sights on the perceived final frontier.

American Well doubled its book of business in this realm last year and now serves over 70 health systems that together have more than 700 hospitals, and Teladoc has gone from working with 60 clients in 2016 to over 120 health systems or hospitals now.

This expansion doesn’t appear to be tapering off, either. The number of U.S. health systems with consumer-service telehealth programs is on track to nearly double from 2016 to 2018, according to findings from the Hospital & Health Systems 2016 Consumer Telehealth Benchmark Survey, conducted by Teladoc in partnership with Becker’s Healthcare.


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