Do Docs HoIP? Physician Engagement Series - American Well & HMSA

A recurring topic of conversation (online and offline) lately involves discussion about US primary care circling the drain.

KevinMD suggests rebranding the specialty (pre-hospitalists, anyone?).

Jay Parkinson suggests a good ol' fashioned with a twist - Hello Health's ridiculously convenient concierge-type system that provides physicians with the flexibility, financial freedom (cash-only practice) and tech-enabled tools to reconnect with patients in a more efficient and empathic manner.

In several of my professional healthcare 'tribes' (health/medical tweets, at industry shows, via email/Skype), another hot point is how the eHealth/mHealth/telehealth firms will successfully (or not so successfully) engage and/or recruit physicians.

My focus of late has turned to those in small group practices (1-6 docs) who may not have time or money to implement such systems, or protect themselves from legal ramifications of deployment and use.

Many of the most detailed (and heated) exchanges and stringent calls for evidence of Health 2.0, eHealth, and mHealth efficacy are happening on Twitter.com.

But even debates between the most stalwart critics and enthusiastic fans of the Health 2.0 movement, chatter almost always ends with pleas for published case studies or 'best practice' examples.

Blogger's Disclaimer: I will not be providing a peer-reviewed academic study on best-practices in physician recruitment to the HoIP space (yet), since I don't want to sit on this information for half a year to go through the publication process (shocker).

I do, however, absolutely recognize and acknowledge the importance of such studies (I'll be co-chairing the HoIP track at WORLDCOMP 09 - many thanks to Dr. Andy Marsh for the invitation) and hope more qualified readers will engage with this data to perform a rigorous statistical analysis of what's working to engage docs - and what's not.

For my part, I'll provide n=1 interviews with several companies in the space to perk your interest and get you started.

Please contact the companies directly if you'd like to discuss enrollment in an n=100 study. Feel free get in touch if I can be of help facilitating engagement, which I'll be happy to do on a volunteer, 'public good' basis as long as you agree to distribute resultant research in an 'open source' manner with Creative Commons use agreements.

Let's get started with a bang. First up is American Well, scheduled to deploy an internet-enabled online care marketplace, in partnership with HMSA, throughout Hawaii mid-January.

Yael Glassman, VP of Marketing, was kind enough to explain how the partnership engages physicians in great detail last Friday. Thanks again Yael for your time!

Interview with Yael Glassman, VP of Marketing - American Well

1. Jen
: With HMSA/Hawaii being the first state set to go live with the American Well Online Healthcare Marketplace (still set for Jan 09?), has utilizing only doctors already within the state's plan given HMSA and American Well a jump on finding doctors who will use the service?

Yael: HMSA is going live on January 15th. For the most updated view on the launch plan visit HMSA.com and check out the most recent press release here-- http://hmsa.com/mediacenter/press/2008/081203_onlinehealthcare.aspx.

HMSA is offering American Well’s service to all the residents of the state of Hawaii (1.3 million people). The doctors are all part of HMSA’s existing provider network. They are credentialed by HMSA and they are all local Hawaii doctors.

And with regards to AW recruiting physicians – American Well partners with health plans to bring online care to both patients and doctors. The health plans, who operate the service in any given geography, offer it to their existing provider network.

AW also supports the rollout process to physicians with templatized knowledge, starter kits and close collaboration during the implementation.

2. Jen: How many physicians in the HMSA network are you expecting to participate on initial rollout? Quarterly? At the 6 month mark? Within a year? Two years? Give us some quantitative, specific stats on how many docs you expect to be using AW in Hawaii. What percentage of total docs in Hawaii does this represent?

Yael: Stay tuned for a little longer because HMSA is going to be publicly announcing how many doctors are signing up...

Here’s a recent news clip: http://www.khnl.com/Global/story.asp?S=9455548

3. Jen: What are ongoing AW efforts surrounding doc recruitment/awareness in Hawaii?

American Well is a partner to HMSA - HMSA organizes the plan's rollout and performs primary physician awareness activities, but the marketing team for this project is a joint team.

We participated and we've helped with pretty much everything that's going on - for example we helped HMSA launch an online community for doctors, a blog, etc. All of our joint efforts are very much in support of the health plan.

4. Jen: What are ongoing AW efforts surrounding doc recruitment/awareness in other markets? Will AW work with partners who roll out the online care marketplace to share recruitment costs, time spent, etc?

Yael: American Well markets to health plans. Our service is offered through health plans, and they are the ones, that offer the service to the physicians that they have already recruited – their existing provider network.

5. Jen: How do you protect docs against liability, malpractice issues? (short version, I know there's been a lot of coverage here).

Yael: Just pull from website - there's plenty of information available in the FAQ section here: http://www.americanwell.com/physicians_faqs.html.

6. Jen: How much do you pay doctors who choose to practice with American Well?

Yael: For one example in the state of Hawaii check out -- http://hmsa.com/mediacenter/press/2008/081203_onlinehealthcare.aspx . The payments for physicians using the system is determined by the operating health plan, so there is geographical variability and plan variability.

7. Jen: How are you preparing doctors who *don't* participate in the current, brick-and-mortar system for unexpected demands? i.e. - "I chatted with a doc on American Well, who told me to come right to the ER...." What happens if a patient and a provider are using the American Well system and something goes wrong?

Yael: When practicing Online Care, physicians have full discretion to use same medical judgment that they have in the practice. Just like in the practice, it’s up to the doctor to decide what the best course of action may be for any particular patient.

In some cases, the doctor can give advice immediately, in others she will require further evaluation tests, workup. Each case is very specific and it’s up to the doctor to decide how best to proceed based on the information that they have in front of them. It is important to note though that online care complements in-person care.

8. Jen: Saved the biggest for last - what 'pain point' are you trying to solve for physicians with the American Well online care marketplace? Why should physicians consider practicing via American Well?

Yael: It comes down to one simple statement – freedom to practice on your own terms. Physicians can practice anytime, from anywhere and generate revenue. Check out Roy Schoenberg’s short interview to The Doctor’s Channel here: http://www.thedoctorschannel.com/video/1173.html.

Thanks again Yael - stay tuned to HMSA's site for the latest updates on AW's online care marketplace rollout.

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