Readers of this blog will know that I have been very enthusiastic about telemedicine. I believe that we are now in the active adoption phase of this technology that will be mission critical for delivering ambulatory care services at lower cost. Both the Cleveland Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare are using the American Well telehealth software platform (see: Cleveland Clinic Launches Web Site to Offer Physician Visits to Ohio Residents;Intermountain Healthcare Launches Telemedicine Program with Connect Care). In a recent press release, Cerner announced that it now was embedding the American Well telehealth software into its EHR (see: Cerner and American Well to Embed Telehealth Capabilities into Cerner). Below is an excerpt from it:
Cerner...[has] announced a telehealth agreement with American Well....Together, the companies will deliver a virtual health care experience that will integrate the American Well platform with Cerner’s electronic health record (EHR).The integration will enable providers to manage the health and care of patients beyond the walls of the health system....The integrated EHR-telehealth solution will be available to current and future Cerner and American Well clients. Patients will interact with the solution through Cerner’s HealtheLifeSM patient engagement portal, which is designed to provide access to health information, provider messaging and broad interaction with care teams.
Here are more details about Cerner's HealtheLifeSM that was referenced in the press release copied from the Cerner web site (see: HealtheLIfe):
- Secure messaging for specific requests such as medication refills.
- Direct-book appointment scheduling.
- Clinical information that can be viewed in the Cerner Millennium electronic medical record (EMR).
- Capability to view and download Continuity of Care Documents.
- Online bill pay.
- eVisit consultations between providers and patients.
I can only speculate why Cerner chose to collaborate with American Well rather than develop its own software. From the description of HealtheLIfe above, notably the reference to eVisit consultations, it might be assumed that Cerner's original intention was to use this software suite as as its telehealth platform. In the end though, Cerner may have concluded that the American Well software was better and also had an adoption advantage in the market. Regardless of these considerations, I believe that the broad integration of telehealth into the EHR is now inevitable. I don't know anything about the strategic direction of Epic toward telehealth but I suspect that this Cerner initiative cannot go unanswered.