Telehealth collaboration seeks to reduce hospitalizations among seniors

In an attempt to reduce hospital readmissions and pharmacy costs for senior citizens, residents at the nation's largest over-55 residential community soon will have access to telehealth services under an agreement with USF Health at the University of South Florida and American Well. This is the first venture in which Boston-based American Well has targeted a senior population with its Online Care telehealth solution.

American Well's partner, USF Health, is itself a partnership between several departments of the Tampa-based university and the USF Physicians' Group. USF Health will deploy Online Care as part of its patient-centered healthcare system, developed in collaboration with the Orlando-based community, The Villages.

Online Care allows patients and physicians to communicate via video, secure text/chat or phone. USF, according to the announcement, will utilize Online Care in The Villages to help keep Medicare beneficiaries in their homes rather than in long-term care settings.

In addition, USF Health physicians will use Online Care to consult with outside specialists to deliver comprehensive care, including post-operative care, diabetes care, cardiovascular health, dermatology, mental health and urology.

According to a recent study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 41 percent of Americans 65 years of age or older were using the Internet as of August 2011.

What's more, telehealth has been spreading rapidly of late, with UnitedHealth Group even boasting a service called NowClinic that offers telehealth consults in 22 states, according to a recent Kaiser Health News article. Seniors have not been a major target so far, but that may be changing. In Florida, for example, Good Samaritan Society-Florida Lutheran assisted living facilities have introduced telehealth services. And in Bangor, Maine, Rosscare Nursing Home offers "telepsych" care with help from the Bangor Beacon Community and Eastern Maine Medical Center.

To learn more:
- read the American Well/The Villages announcement
- see the Pew Internet report
- check out a Kaiser Health News story on telehealth


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