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EHR-telehealth partnership hopes to spur physician acceptance

A partnership announced Aug. 15 during Allscripts' annual client conference in Chicago integrates American Well's Online Care telehealth solution into the Allscripts EHR platform. For Boston-based American Well, which has typically partnered with payers, this marks an important step in telehealth's acceptance by -- and integration with -- the provider community.

"This is a very, very significant milestone," said Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, American Well's president and CEO. He said the partnership "recognizes that telehealth needs to become a part of the core toolset that physicians must have to practice medicine."

Schoenberg pointed out that telehealth has typically been seen from a patient's perspective and has gained traction in the payer community, but providers are slow to recognize its value to them in the care delivery process. With these partnerships, the development of the accountable care organization model of care delivery and a willingness by payers – including the federal government – to reimburse for telehealth services, he said, "we have a dramatic movement in the market from a business standpoint."

Allscripts CEO Glenn Tullman agreed.

"They're going to be connected to almost a third of the physicians in America," said Tullman, who demonstrated the platform during a session at the client conference. "It's going to be a part of the normal workflow for [physicians], and that's what's so critical. It's a way to extend the practice."

"The momentum behind the telehealth movement is growing at a remarkable pace. As patients demand improved access to care, providers seek alternative delivery methods to deliver care efficiently and effectively as payment models trend away from fee-for-service," said Ido Schoenberg, MD, American Well's chairman and CEO, in a press release announcing the partnership. "Today, 40 state Medicaid plans reimburse for telehealth services and 16 states mandate private insurer coverage for telehealth -- including four states which have passed such laws since March. Integrating Online Care with Allscripts Electronic Health Records will offer providers a solution to meet these mandates while improving access to quality healthcare."

While Allscripts will make the full solution available next year as part of its Connected Community of Health platform, it's testing the solution at a handful of client locations, including University of South Florida Health. USF Health announced plans to deploy the Allscripts-American Well platform at The Villages, a residential community for seniors in Tampa, Fla.

Tullman noted that the combination of Allscripts' open platform and programs like American Well's Online Care will open up healthcare to "massive change."

"Allscripts' telehealth solution will help provide convenient, safer and secure access to care and enable that care to be documented in the electronic health record – so that other providers can have up-to-date information. It will also give physicians an opportunity to get paid for telehealth, something that was a hurdle in the past," Tullman said in the press release.

Known for its relationships with payers such as OptumHealth and Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Well has been making strides over the past two years to expand its platform. The company has forged a deal with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to add telehealth services to VA centers around the country, and has developed a physician-facing platform that's designed to enable small and stand-alone medical practices to use telehealth services to enhance care to existing patients and market their services to a wider base.

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