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Up and Comers

May 26, 2011
by Jennifer Prestigiacomo and John Degaspari
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Promising Healthcare IT Vendors to Keep an Eye On

In the rapidly changing healthcare IT landscape, the top IT vendors are the enablers that provide the largest percentage of crucial tools that will allow hospitals and physician groups to meet the challenges of healthcare reform. Their solutions are the virtual gears that will transform the healthcare environment. To be sure, the largest vendors will play a big hand in how healthcare evolves.

Yet for every large vendor, there are dozens of smaller companies with products that provide important solutions, while offering a tantalizing glimpse into a world of new possibilities. What follows is a sampling of six vendors that have established themselves as technology leaders with innovative solutions on a variety of fronts, from a virtual tool to interact with patients, to e-prescribing, mobile chronic disease management, and accountable care solutions. They are definitely worth keeping on your radar screens.


Boston-based American Well has solved the conundrum of how to deliver care to patients without actually seeing them, a problem that call centers and nurse lines have historically addressed. Since 2006, American Well has been contracting its technology, which allows patients to make online consultations with a physician, health plans, and other partners. American Well now can count one-third of all U.S. managed care companies as its clients, including heavyweights like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Eagan, Minn.) and WellPoint (Indianapolis, Ind.).

“When you look at the reform [movement], and other trends like accountable care organizations, they all drill down to the fact that access to care is becoming more and more difficult. It just takes too long, and it costs too much to see a doctor,” says Ido Schoenberg, M.D., American Well's chairman and CEO.

Schoenberg notes that American Well's strategy isn't strictly about signing up one health plan after another, but rather engaging in a variety of types of tactical partnerships, releasing new products, and positioning its offering to be a tool for accountable care organizations. “Our platform is a good way to glue together and unite [the organizations] under a new brand, and basically they can all enroll in the system and provide service to the population they are focusing on,” he adds.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) was the first continental U.S. customer to use American Well's technology platform to roll out its Online Care Anywhere pilot in November 2009. Blue Cross employs two models, a fee per use model of $45 for a 13-minute online consultation, or an employer group sliding scale pricing that starts at $50 per month for small companies, according to Sig Muller, vice president, business development at Blue Cross. Mueller says that according to customer surveys since implementation, Online Care Anywhere has prevented 86 percent of customers from going to an urgent care center and has saved 71 percent of customers at least an hour in time. Schoenberg adds that overall more females than males use the service, with a wide age range, including the senior population. He says mothers especially like to use the service for themselves and their children.

In April 2010, American Well partnered with Rite Aid Corp., Camp Hill, Pa., to provide online consultations with Rite Aid pharmacists and from private consultation rooms in select Rite Aid pharmacies. Schoenberg says he's now engaging much larger organizations, such as governments, that could use the American Well platform as a “backbone” care solution for their countries. The company in April released Online Care For Providers, a telehealth solution that allows providers to provide live consultations with patients using the Web or phone and automatically captures a complete record of each encounter, which may be imported into EMRs, supporting clinical documentation standards and continuity of care.

“We really took note of other efficiencies of the marketplace that were achieved outside of healthcare, and we said, ‘how can we bring it in,’ and it is really complicated,” says Schoenberg. “There are issues with security and scalability and privacy and continuity. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we knew it was going to be worthwhile.”