In previous notes, I have discussed how the Cleveland Clinic was offering virtual physician visits for Ohio residents for $49 (see: Cleveland Clinic Launches Web Site to Offer Physician Visits to Ohio Residents; Details of Cleveland Clinic's MyCare Online Virtual Telemedicine Visits). This was a game-changer because it marked the first time that a prestigious hospital system had adopted a broad telemedicine business model using its family practice physicians. It's inevitable that more hospitals will adopt this model because it allows them to provide clinical services without a greater investment in bricks and mortar. However, investment is required in the enabling telemedicine technology infrastructure and the training of physicians and support staff about how to provide high quality care remotely. A recent article discussed how one company was providing "white label" telemedicine software support (see: Zipnosis looks to expand after raising $17 million in venture capital)
Zipnosis, a...health-technology firm that allows medical providers to conduct economical “virtual” visits with patients, has raised $17 million in its first formal round of venture capital. The Minneapolis-based company touts itself the first “virtual care solution” that enables health systems to launch their own “branded” virtual-care clinics online or mobile with their own medical professionals in timely consultations designed to help patients treat themselves, pursue an in-clinic visit or seek other medical help, as their conditions necessitate....Zipnosis produces a “white label” software platform that allows outfits such as Fairview, Group Health of Seattle and 15 other current health care customers to “care for more patients under their own brand name and without adding staff....At North Memorial Health Care, which has its own labeled version of the Zipnosis platform, a patient submits symptoms and answers questions for about five minutes and the information is reviewed by a nurse practitioner or doctor who makes a diagnosis and treatment plan through the integrated electronic medical records. It may be to do nothing, get a prescription based on symptoms and health history, or come into the clinic for further evaluation.
The Cleveland Clinic appears to have outsourced some components of its Express Care Online. At the outset of the program, it indicated that AmericanWell was providing its telehealth software infrastructure. This makes perfect sense in that a health system might well outsource some or all of the enabling technology and focus on training its healthcare professionals about virtual care. I would assume that Zipnosis provides more of a turn-key service to hospitals than other firms. Hence the "white label" category. White-labeling is common in grocery stores with private brand or store brand products provided by companies that sell to multiple supermarkets, changing only the product labels (see: White-label product).
I believe that most larger hospitals will soon adopt, or be forced to adopt, some form of telemedicine. As they jump on the learning curve, physicians will gradually become more comfortable treating a wide range of illnesses starting first with minor ailments and skin problems which can often be diagnosed visually. An important next step will be for some patients with chronic diseases to be allowed to make telemedicne appointments with their regular physicians. For some health systems, this may require having patients use tele-monitoring equipment to record vital signs. Such equipment can be lent or rented to patients. Their use will require patient education to teach them about the proper use of the devices. The benefit for the hospitals will be less frequent hospital readmissions for which they can be financially penalized by healthcare payers if beyond the norms.