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At ATA 2016, American Well telemedicine draws attention

American Well is getting attention for its new telemedicine exchange while The New York Times also picked up on the development as the telehealth industry poises for growth.

MINNEAPOLIS -- When American Well, one of the country's biggest telemedicine services providers, wanted to make a splash with its new national telehealth exchange, the Massachusetts-based company deployed a powerful one-two combination.

It unveiled the Exchange, as the new network is officially named, at ATA 2016, the annual conference and trade show of the American Telemedicine Association.

"Healthcare needs to be available to Americans under the brands they trust," American Well CEO and President Roy Schoenberg, doctor of medicine, said as he presented the conceptual framework of the exchange -- and introduced three national healthcare organization powerhouses that have bought it into it -- at an early morning breakfast at ATA 2016.

Meanwhile, the world was also already reading about it in The New York Times.

Roy Schoenberg, CEO and president, American Well Roy Schoenberg

The timing of the Times story was certainly fortuitous -- and probably no accident. It brought not only widespread publicity, but also influential third-party validation of the concept: allowing healthcare consumers no matter where they live to choose doctors from a few respected health systems to take care of them remotely.

American Well's initial partners in the endeavor are Cleveland Clinic and Nemours Children's Health System, both blue chip health systems known for innovation, and LiveHealth Online, the telehealth provider arm of Anthem Inc., the Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance network.

What this means is if you're sick and need treatment for common urgent care conditions and live in Ohio, West Virginia or Pennsylvania and want to be seen by a Cleveland Clinic doctor, you can pick the one you want through LiveHealth Online.

Likewise with Nemours, the renowned Florida-based pediatrics system, whose docs are available for remote care for patients in Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania.

If the Exchange proves successful, presumably the number of states, and providers, will grow.

American Well is betting that it is.

As the Times story reports, it has suddenly become considerably easier for doctors to practice telemedicine across state lines. Barriers to that, including reimbursement problems, have long held back telemedicine.

Last year, though, the national Federation of State Medical Boards introduced an expedited licensing system, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, for doctors who want to practice in multiple states.

The compact is going live this summer, and many doctors will find it incredibly easier to get multistate licenses.

This development could prove to be a tipping point, along with growing willingness of state Medicaid systems to reimburse for telehealth services that could propel telemedicine faster than ever before.

American Well and its partners think the Exchange is another tipping point.

"The Exchange is really a seismic shift," Shayan Vayas, doctor of medicine and medical director of Telehealth Florida for Nemours Pediatrics, said at the ATA 2016 event.

"It blows it right open," John Jesser, Anthem's vice president of provider engagement strategy -- and president of LiveHealth Online -- who was dispatched to Minneapolis for the American Well announcement, said.

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