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Four Questions with the CEO: American Well’s Dr. Roy Schoenberg


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"When you think about disrupting healthcare, not everything is fair game via @AmericanWell "

The current health reform debate has pushed the issue of access to care to the forefront of our national dialogue. American Well, a Boston-based technology company focused on enabling telehealth, is committed to disrupting traditional healthcare delivery and expanding access to quality healthcare with no boundaries. Through its Exchange marketplace, American Well connects payers, providers, employers, and consumers through a single portal, and it enables providers to integrate telehealth products into care services.

Here, Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, the company’s CEO, answers four questions on how American Well navigates today’s complex market to improve the way consumers access and experience quality healthcare.

Oliver Wyman Health: Disruption is a central issue in today's healthcare environment, and everything from new technology to the creation of new consumer experiences is shifting the existing landscape. How does your organization think about disruption?

Dr. Roy Schoenberg: It’s no secret that everybody, in any business today, is looking for disruption; but healthcare is a very unique industry. When you think about disrupting healthcare, not everything is fair game. State and federal regulation heavily govern the rules of engagement for the industry. So while the healthcare is ripe for disruption, it’s challenged because we have to be very respectful in that some of the cogs of the wheel should be maintained or retained and can't be discarded for the purpose of innovation.

At American Well, we understand that while the rules of engagement in healthcare can change with the use of technology, the covenants of industry relationships have to be maintained in order for innovation to be accepted and matured. It’s not just about adding new technologies and features into the marketplace. It’s more about implementing a solution that touches positively on all industry stakeholders and consumer experiences.

OWH: How can American Well’s solutions be a positive disruptor and play a key role in the future health market?

RS: Our technology broadens the ability for people to access quality care, no matter where you live. When you think about healthcare experiences, a patient in a city like Boston will likely have a much different experience than a patient in a more rural city in North Dakota. Through our telehealth services, we are working toward dismantling this access disparity. We want people in North Dakota to experience the same renowned quality care that one might receive in Boston.

Additionally, when healthcare is available more broadly, it has a tremendous impact on cost. Suddenly, people are not a part of a captive audience with a price set. Instead, people are exposed to the best healthcare that can be rendered at the best prices, anywhere around the country.

OWH: How is your organization driving the type of change that defines Health Market 2.0?

RS: We believe telehealth can bring very healthy changes to the market. For the last 10 years, we have been building telehealth infrastructure for key organizations that are involved in healthcare delivery. By integrating our system into countless payer and provider companies, we have managed to lift the marketplace gates. For instance, instead of companies just buying American Well technology for the purpose of doing their own telehealth, we now allow every node in our ecosystem to begin to acquire and deliver live healthcare services from one another. Now, hospital systems that have a remarkable clinical product can broadcast that product over state lines and into the hands of cardholders that might need that particular service.

Essentially, our technology is not only providing various payers, providers, and employers telehealth capabilities; on a more grand scale, and through our partnerships, we are also opening up a marketplace for live exchange of health services across the ecosystem. 

OWH: Where do you see the healthcare market in 10 years and your organization’s role in it?

RS: I think the key pieces of the puzzle to rebuild the healthcare market have, for the most part, arrived. Some of them are clicking into place right now, and some of them are going to click into place soon.

From a telehealth perspective, Texas was the last state to embrace the technology, making it a clean 50 states that now offer the technology. To add, commercial health insurers have unanimously embraced it, and Medicare and Medicaid are moving at a rapid pace to ensure telehealth coverage for enrollees. With this buy-in, we can assume that the technology has become very mature. And what that means is that we have all of the ingredients necessary to open up a national marketplace for telehealth. 

In 10 years, I predict Americans will see a gamut of advanced healthcare services that have acquired the reputation of being the best of the best, and they’re all going to be available to us through technology. I envision that the concept of a broader national marketplace for healthcare might look like how Amazon disrupted the retail industry. I think healthcare services will be available through an online search in which people can choose services at prices they are comfortable with. And that's going to happen sooner than we think.


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