American Well smartphone American Well smartphone American Well lets patients consult a doctor via its website, or its smartphone and tablet apps. (Photo: Courtesy of American Well)

American Well makes online access to doctors easier

Company that offers video chats looks to expand.

Going to the doctor is a pain in the butt. You have to take time off work, sit in waiting rooms, fill out forms, and then wait in what Jerry Seinfeld called the "littler waiting room." A lot of people just don't have the time.

Two Israeli doctors knew there was a need for patients to connect with physicians in a fast and easy way. So brothers Drs. Ido and Roy Schoenberg created American Well in the early 2000s.

How does it work? You sign up, find a doctor, and schedule a 10-minute video chat either on the web, or via the AmWell smartphone and tablet apps. You consult with the doctor online about whatever malady you might have (the site lists which issues are appropriate for online consultation and which aren't). The appointment is similar to an in-office visit. If you need a prescription, the doctor issues one, or orders needed tests. If an in-office consultation is needed, the doctor will recommend that.

Sure, if your thumb has been sliced open, you probably need to go to an emergency room. But in many cases, a verbal consult is all that's needed. The AmWell staff assures that insurance companies cover the consultations and that regulatory boards in 46 states give approval. With a massive roster of doctors, therapists and nutritionists, AmWell has become one of the leading remote medical companies in the United States.

The Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva recently made an investment in AmWell, according to the Globes business journal. The insurance company Anthem also has a small stake in the company.

Eventually, AmWell wants to use the system to diagnose chronic patients at home, via remotely accessed diagnostic devices. "The application will be through a home or wearable monitoring device," CEO Ido Schoenberg told Globes. "The doctor can access this information, decide whether to change the medication, and in the future, the medication will even reach the patients shortly afterwards through home delivery."

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