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American Well Patents Are Unenforceable

Posted on September 13, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Good news today for the telemedicine industry as the federal courts ruled that American Well’s telemedicine patents are unenforceable in their case against Teladoc. Here’s an excerpt from Mobi Health News on the decision:

It’s looking more and more like the path to victory in the major turf wars of digital health will not be through patent litigation.

Earlier this week, a Massachusetts federal judge Indira Talwani ruled that American Well’s telehealth patents, which the company had sued Teladoc for allegedly infringing, were unenforceably broad. She cited the same Supreme Court precedent, Alice v. CLS Bank, that an ITC judge used to invalidate Jawbone’s patents last month in the tracker company’s battle with Fitbit.

I love the way Jonah Comstock from Mobi Health News described the decision. The path to victory won’t be based on patent litigation. Let’s hope that Jonah is right since patent litigation is an awful way to create a market. That’s true for telemedicine and the health sensor market. There’s a supposed PHR patent out there which needs to be invalidated the same way.

As you can see, I’m not a huge fan of software patents. It’s pretty hard to make the case for the innovation that you’re really trying to accomplish. Plus, far too many software patents are held by patent trolls. In this case, it’s a bit better since American Well has built a legitimate telemedicine business and isn’t just relying on their patent. That’s a good thing and it’s healthy to have Teladoc, American Well, MDLive and others battling it out in the market.

I’m glad to see the federal courts ruling on this. American Well is looking to appeal the decision, so it’s not over yet, but I’m hoping the result of their appeal is the same. We’ll all be better with that patent being unenforcable.

Walgreens Goes Big on Telemedicine Including New Behavioral Health Service

Posted on May 12, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This was extremely big news for Telehealth in general, but even more so from a mental and behavioral health perspective. In case you missed the news, Walgreens and MDLIVE are partnering to offer telehealth and behavioral telehealth services (technically MDLIVE is partnering with Breakthrough for the behavioral health piece).

Walgreens involvement in telemedicine is such a big deal and is going to really push telemedicine much faster than it’s already going. Currently they can offer their telehealth medical services in 37 states (this announcement added 13 states). Here’s the type of services you can receive through these services:

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Cold / Flu
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear problems
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Insect bites
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Pink eye
  • Rash
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sore throats
  • Urinary problems / UTI
  • Vaginitis
  • And more

On the behavioral telehealth front, you can get non prescription services in all 50 states and behavioral health prescribing services will be available in 20 states. Here’s a look at the list of services they can offer in behavioral health:

  • Addictions
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Child and adolescent issues
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender issues
  • Grief and loss
  • Life changes
  • Men’s issues
  • Panic disorders
  • Parenting issues
  • Postpartum depression
  • Relationship and marriage issues
  • Stress
  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Women’s issues
  • And more

This announcement has been met by much rejoicing in the mental health community. I think that many of them see these telehealth services as a great way to get more mental health services out to patients who wouldn’t otherwise get treatment. It sure feels like telehealth has finally arrived.

Telemedicine Startup Offers Providers A Shot At Equity

Posted on April 22, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Over the last couple of years, the number of telemedicine vendors out there fighting for business has exploded.  These include DoctoronDemand, GoTelecare, HealthTap, MDLIVE, American Well and many, many more.

Health plans are jumping on the bandwagon too. For example, United Healthcare  has been running a popular national television campaign advertising its “virtual clinic” services. UHC is my plan, so I can attest that this service — shown as embedded in its member site — hasn’t been rolled out yet, but that only makes its desire to get out in front of the trend more noteworthy.

Telemedicine models in play include companies that recruit providers and sell them to consumers, vendors who enable telemedicine via proprietary platforms and firms that lead with community building. At present the direct-to-consumer players seem to be somewhat ahead, simply because they’ve already begun developing a national brand, but the story doesn’t end there.

Though consumer-facing telemedicine companies probably have a viable business model, they’ll have to build a memorable consumer brand to make it, something that takes a great deal of  time and money.  On the other hand, vendors that offer white-label telemedicine technology to hospitals and health plans have at least as much to gain, without having to win the loyalty of fickle consumers.

One telemedicine player doing just that is Nashville-based PointNurse, which has developed a distributed collaboration and communications platform providers can use to deliver telemedicine services. I just spoke to CEO Cyrus Maaghul, who gave me a company overview, and was interested to hear that his venture is taking things in some new directions.

PointNurse is different than most companies in the telemedicine space for a few reasons.

For one thing, the platform includes block chain capabilities, which allow providers to accumulate credits for both community participation and actual care delivery. (In case you aren’t familiar with block chain technology, which powers crypto currency Bitcoin, you may want to click here.)

These credits aren’t just for fun. Eventually, when providers accumulate enough credits, they get a pro-rata share of a dedicated pool of equity.

Consumers, for their part, are given a multi-signature wallet which stores both their personal and clinical information, resulting more or less in a PHR with added capabilities. PointNurse hasn’t yet devised a way to share the data with provider EMRs, but that’s a short-term goal.

A wide range of providers can participate in PointNurse, including not only MDs but also nurse practitioners, pharmacists, RNs, LPNs and elder advocates.

A sister venture, HealthCombix, will license the technology underlying PointNurse to hospitals and payers. HealthCombix will provide APIs and tools to build their own distributed applications.

As Maaghul sees it, it’s critical for providers to realize more than a short-term benefit from participating in telemedicine. “I wanted to make providers feel highly motivated — that they can gain from this [arrangement],” Maaghul said. “This creates value for the patient.”

Of course, there’s no proof yet that this or any particular telemedicine business model is going to capture its market niche.  In fact, it’s not even clear what niches will emerge in this space; after all, though it’s moving fast it’s far from mature.

That being said, this approach has some intriguing aspects. I’ll be interested to see whether its business model and and unusual underlying technology work out.