15 Jan On Track with Telehealth
In September, Beacon Health System contracted with American Well to build a telehealth platform to be called Beacon Connected Care from which Beacon Health System will offer telehealth services. While several telehealth services are already in use at Beacon (in the form of electronic provider consults via the Mayo Clinic Care Network, telebehavioral health services at Memorial Epworth Hospital as well as teleradiology and teleneurology), the partnership ushers in a new approach to meeting patient health care needs as well as new opportunities for physicians.
Building the Foundation of Telehealth at Beacon
Named Beacon Virtual Urgent Care, the initial telehealth service that will be available directly to consumers during the first quarter of 2017 will be adult and pediatric urgent care on demand via an app for smartphones and tablets as well as a web-based system for computers.
The service will be staffed by the Online Care Group (see “About Our Telehealth Partner” on the opposite page for more information) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Typical case types for Beacon Virtual Urgent Care will include colds, fever, rash, stomach flu, sinus infection, pink eye and headaches. After January 1, benefit-eligible Beacon Medical Group physicians and their eligible dependents will have access to eight free Beacon Virtual Urgent Care visits per year.
Improving Practice Life and Capabilities in the Virtual Space
With the secure Beacon Connected Care platform powered by American Well, future uses of the technology are nearly limitless, affording potential opportunities for improved practice life for physicians.
“I envision that the platform will save time for providers,” says Mark Schmeltz, DO, of Beacon Medical Group and chair of the Beacon Health System Telehealth Committee. “It has the potential to streamline workflows within a practice — everything from the time it takes to register and get a patient in a room to playing phone tag with a specialist, for example. Telehealth is another tool we can use to coordinate care in a simpler, more efficient way.”
For Beacon Medical Group physicians who have more than one office location like Dr. Schmeltz, the technology could save hundreds of hours of wasteful travel time. Even within a practice, all physicians will save time from having to go from room to room, patient to patient. The time savings can be extrapolated to the entire practice as clinical and support staff can eliminate the need to greet, manage and usher patients through the various components of a clinic visit.
- Teleconferencing in real time with a patient, their family members and specialists together
- Using telehealth for on-call services
- Offering a more flexible work arrangement for physicians, including retired physicians or those who want to spend more time with their family but who still want to keep practicing at some level
“Providing urgent care through the platform is only the beginning,” says Dr. Schmeltz. “We will pilot scheduled virtual visits for established patients with Beacon Medical Group providers in 2017. And, as with all Beacon services, we will monitor the quality of the care delivered at all times.”
In the future, the platform may be used for remote patient monitoring using wearable health tracking modalities or other peripheral devices. Other uses may include virtual visits for home care and post-surgical patients as well as for specialty consults.
“Certainly telehealth will not replace many types of in-person visits, but it will be an additional channel to reach patients while enhancing both the physician and patient experience,” says Dr. Schmeltz.
About Our Telehealth Partner
Beacon has selected American Well as a partner for a robust and flexible telehealth platform. Founded in 2006, American Well is widely regarded as the industry’s leading telehealth solution. The Online Care Group, American Well’s primary care group partner, employs U.S. board-certified physicians specially trained in telehealth.
The Online Care Group is the nation’s first and largest primary care group devoted to telehealth. The physicians have an average of 15 years of experience and have multistate medical licensure. All Online Care Group providers are certified and credentialed according to National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) standards.