October 23, 2019

Cleveland Clinic and telehealth company American Well on Monday announced a partnership to provide comprehensive and high-acuity specialty telehealth consults with Cleveland Clinic specialists through a new platform called The Clinic.

Cleveland Clinic wants to double its patient population in 5 years. Can it do it?

Background: A demand for virtual care from Cleveland Clinic

Since 2014, Cleveland Clinic and American Well have partnered to provide specialty care and non-emergency services through Cleveland Clinic Express Care Online.

Meanwhile, Cleveland Clinic has seen "a rapid increase in the use of virtual visits" for patient care, the organization noted in a release, with virtual visits growing by 68% in 2018 alone. Telehealth is central to Cleveland Clinic's goal to double its patient volume over the next five years. It expects 50% of outpatients will be virtual in five years.

Details on the partnership

Through The Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and American Well will provide specialist consults to patients who will continue to see their local provider for actual care and treatment. The goal of the new venture is to expand access to Cleveland Clinic's renowned specialists, not to bring more patients into Cleveland Clinic locations for treatment, William Morris, executive medical director, at Cleveland Clinic Innovations, said.

"This is not a ploy to fill office visits and fill the building," Morris said. "It's the other way around: How do we decant our intellectual capital and bring the provider to you … especially for patients who are not in close proximity to Cleveland Clinic? The Clinic is a way for us to rapidly deploy and scale our digital services in a non–brick-and-mortar fashion."

Morris explained that the specialists providing the virtual consults will adhere to appropriate regulations because they are consulting with patients, rather than diagnosing or treating them. If services require credentialing, the organization will "follow the letter of the law," Morris noted.

According to HealthLeaders Media, The Clinic also will aim to create models and products that address some of the main barriers to telehealth adoption in the United States, such as lagging reimbursement, technical challenges that prevent specialists from quickly accessing patients' medical records, and multi-state licensing.

Cleveland Clinic and American Well did not specify the amount they've invested in the joint venture, but according to American Well CEO Ido Schoenberg, the amount is "significant."

American Well said, "Each parent organization is equally committed to The Clinic. In addition to the financial assurance, both companies have dedicated top leaders from their respective teams to foster, nurture, and grow the venture."  

However, both American Well and Cleveland Clinic noted that the venture is still in the early stages. Morris said they will be conducting a nationwide search to find a CEO for The Clinic.

Schoenberg said, "The path to the future is by creating connectivity." He added, "No one has the magic wand. It's all about rethinking the redistribution of health care" (Roth, HealthLeaders Media, 10/21; Coutré, Modern Healthcare, 10/21; Cleveland Clinic release, 10/21).

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