You can now carry a doctor with you in your pocket. Two top telehealth companies that support online physician-patient visits have gone mobile. This upgrade was announced this week at the 2012 American Telemedicine Association conference, being held in San Jose, CA.
In enabling mobile physician visits, American Well and Consult A Doctor join Myca, which has offered mobile phone-based visits for clients for at least two years to employer clinic customers. In April 2010, my report, How Smartphones Are Changing Healthcare for Consumers and Providers, talked about Myca’s work with Qualcomm: the telecomms company armed traveling employees with mobile phones that could connect back to the company’s employee clinic.
It’s taken two years to see this innovation fan out to a broader base. With American Well’s and Consult A Doctor’s announcements, we’re moving up on the adoption curve beyond the first pioneer-adoption phase.
American Well’s news is their Online Care 6.0 update which enables individual consumers to access providers on the platform. Mobile access is supported for iPods, iPads, and iPhones, and the company expects two-way video encounters will be available this summer.
Consult A Doctor previewed an iPhone app to allow patients to connect with their doctors on-the-go. The TeleCare 3.0 platform is cloud-based, licensed to physicians, hospitals and health plans. One of Consult A Doctor’s distinctions is that audio from the telehealth sessions is recorded and included in a patient’s EHR.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Several factors are driving the mobile health market, and particularly the segment of mobile visits: a growing mobile workforce, consumers adopting mobile phone apps, physicians and nurse adopting mobile technology (especially tablets, and the doctor-beloved iPad), and payors’ passion to stem health cost increases. Both health plans and employers have demonstrated interest in adopting and reimbursing online visits, version 1.0, online via webcam and videoconference. Now, here come mobile visits. Watch for more platforms to emerge in the coming months.
The limiting factor on the supply side will be physicians, some of whom will be challenged by a new kind of workflow. Those who can jump the curve and revel in mobile platforms for patient visits will see a new revenue stream and, potentially, a more productive workflow. In addition to acute cases, doctors will find a platform that’s also useful for helping patients manage chronic conditions outside of the physician’s office.