“We have to look at telehealth as an operating system.” Amwell ($AMWL) President & CEO Roy Schoenberg has a way with analogies, and some of his best land in this interview as we get a highly detailed, insider’s perspective about how payers and health systems are rethinking telehealth as a result of their experiences during the pandemic.
Bottom line: The pandemic taught us that telehealth can be used to deliver a much wider variety of healthcare services than just urgent care and, so the whole idea of ‘telehealth’ is changing from healthcare product to healthcare infrastructure. Mental health care, physical therapy, medication management, primary care, and more have all moved to telehealth and, along with that shift, the “rules of engagement” around those services have started to change.
Payers are looking to become the “digital front door” for their members – providing primary care and navigation. Health Systems are increasingly looking to use their own docs for urgent care, rather than outsource that relationship and miss the potential to build trust with local patients. And, in all this, Roy argues that healthcare’s biggest buyers have stopped looking at telehealth as a “product” and, instead, are starting to see the opportunity to “rewrite their future” around a view of telehealth as infrastructure, as one of healthcare’s “foundational systems” intertwined with (and as mission-critical as) their EHRs or claims and eligibility systems.
My favorite analogy starts around the 20-minute mark, when Roy explains this operating system idea by drawing comparison to how individual Microsoft programs (think Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) would be infinitely less powerful if they were not running on the same operating system and able to easily transfer information. Another good one? How both the buying and provisioning of healthcare is being re-thought digitally, just as online shopping not only changed buying habits but also changed supply chain for retailers. If you’re looking to hear the latest on what’s happening in telehealth post-Covid, learn how things have changed for payers and health systems, AND also want to dip into Amwell’s market positioning a bit, you’ll love this deep-dive.
“Telehealth has a much bigger role to play than just carrying out transactions,” says Amwell’s President & CEO, Roy Schoenberg, who joins Jess DaMassa for a sweeping philosophical discussion about how telehealth’s role will continue to evolve through the covid19 pandemic and the changes its forced on the healthcare market. Conversations about telehealth that were once about the value of improving “access to care” are now about the technology’s potential to drive “quality of care.” And Amwell – which says it is a “technology infrastructure company” focused on helping traditional healthcare players transition into digital distribution – is pushing past the old notion that virtual care is merely a “product to get a Z-pak.”
Roy gives us updates on Amwell’s much-buzzed-about partnerships with United Healthcare and Google, the later being focused on how the telehealth co is looking at integrating some of those famous Google technologies (think natural language processing, translation, and geolocation-ala-Maps) into virtual care delivery in a way that sounds like a lot more than just a “switchboard.”
Two other colorful Roy Schoenberg soundbites to tease you into this conversation about the immediate future of telehealth from the leader of one its biggest players: 1) “the notion that we are no longer looking at the home as an illegitimate place of care is drama in in every sense” and 2) “I think the next war-zone, the next place where there’s going to be a lot of heated confrontations and conversations, is state licensure.”
There are few better positioned to speculate on what’s next for telehealth than Roy Schoenberg, co-CEO & President, of Amwell. After 15 years, more than $710M in total funding, and probably the best analogies out there for describing telehealth’s potential as a disruptive technology, Roy weighs in on just how unprecedented COVID19 has been for the uptake and evolution of virtual care.
“Historically, people thought, could telehealth be as good as a physical visit? The reality of COVID,” says Roy, “has literally opened the door to the question, can telehealth be better?”
From the near-term “new wave” of telehealth that has already begun to “eclipse the urgent care telehealth” to how Amwell’s clientele of clinicians, healthcare delivery systems, and payers are shifting to accept the idea of the technology as “the start of healthcare,” Roy talks of a future of telehealth that is “entrenched inside the system.” And how Amwell is meant to act as “facilitator.”
“When we start thinking about telehealth as a switchboard — not as a product, but as an infrastructure for the redistribution of healthcare — we’re talking about a completely different experience for us as Americans on what healthcare is available to us and how we can consume it.”
“To me, and I’ll fast forward to the end here, we want to get to the point that telehealth changes our expectation when we grow old as to where we can grow old. We want to be in a place where we can stay at home…where we don’t have to be in the ‘belly of the beast’ to get healthcare.”
How far away is this future that Roy describes, midway through telehealth’s biggest year yet? Is the appetite there among incumbents? And what of those Amwell IPO rumors? How might that kind of funding help rush things along? Tune in to this episode of ‘WTF Health – What’s the Future, Health?’ with Jessica DaMassa to find out.
In an exclusive interview with Matthew Holt, American Well President and CEO Roy Schoenberg, MD shrugs off the threat of emerging competitors, predicts that United Healthcare will own a telehealth company within the next 12 months, and reveals that his company has “turned the corner” in terms of generating revenue from telehealth services. Schoenberg also shares details of the company’s recently announced integration with Apple HealthKit and the growing use of scheduled telehealth visits to treat chronically ill patients.
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