Cleveland Clinic, Amwell joint venture launches virtual 2nd opinions service

The Cleveland Clinic and telehealth company American Well are offering virtual medical second opinions as part of their telehealth joint venture.

The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic aligns the hospital's clinical expertise with digital health technologies to provide easier access to leading medical expertise with the aim of driving better decisions, improved patient outcomes and lower costs, the organization said.

Monday, The Clinic launched its new website and brand identity.

"It's part of building the brand and getting the word out there. The original vision of the joint venture is the potential of taking leading academic medical institutions and bringing access to more people around the world," Frank McGillin, CEO of The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic, told Fierce Healthcare.

The Cleveland Clinic and Amwell launched the joint venture in October 2019 to provide broad access to comprehensive and high-acuity care services via telehealth. The new venture marks the first time a major digital health technology platform has partnered with a healthcare provider to deliver digital solutions for complex healthcare problems.

Cleveland Clinic and Amwell have collaborated since 2014 for nonemergency and specialty care telehealth (Cleveland Clinic Express Care Online). The joint venture is a natural extension of their existing partnership to expand on digital health initiatives for patients around the world, executives said.

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The initiative opens the door to Cleveland Clinic’s comprehensive medical expertise, with 3,500 clinical specialists in more than 550 advanced subspecialties. Powered by Amwell’s technologies, which are currently deployed by 2,000 hospitals, 55 health plan partners and 36,000 employers, The Clinic offers video consultations, digital record collection and concierge-level service to health plans, employers and healthcare consumers.  

Virtual Second Opinions by Cleveland Clinic, the first solution in The Clinic’s growing portfolio, addresses the growing demand for broader insights into care.

The market for second opinions is projected to reach $7 billion by 2024, up from $2.25 billion in 2017. The offering provides convenient access to Cleveland Clinic’s leading specialists for in-depth case reviews. Via Amwell’s telehealth platform, members or patients can connect with specialists via a phone, tablet or computer, eliminating the burden of travel time and other obstacles, the organizations said.

The Clinic team does the behind-the-scenes work, collecting medical records, lab samples and imaging.

“We are working to reimagine the digital healthcare experience, making it more patient-centric and utilizing the best clinical science that is powered by the most advanced technology in the industry,” McGillin said.

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“Our vision is to make it easier for people living with complex medical conditions to gain access to leading medical experts. By combining the superior capabilities of Cleveland Clinic and Amwell, we can help stakeholders across the globe better manage complex medical conditions, improve outcomes and eliminate costs resulting from inaccurate care," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven greater demand for virtual access to leading medical experts, McGillin said.

"What we found is that particularly early on in the pandemic, with more elective procedures being put on hold—and then an incredible spike last year in the second quarter as we started to look at more elective procedures—virtual consultations and virtual second opinion became more obvious. Patients are able to get access to the best medical advice," he said. "As an example, a patient came to us last month and had some questions dealing with aortic value issues, and had concerns for the past several years. The patient wanted to understand what’s the best path forward and was able to obtain a second opinion from our Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute in a timely way."

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The goal is for The Clinic to go beyond second opinions to help address challenges with chronic conditions, McGillin said. 

"There is the potential here to unlock the clinical expertise and use virtual health and remote monitoring to rethink care and attack healthcare challenges of the world," he said. "Virtual care opens the door for care around the globe, and 20% of the patients that we interact are outside the U.S. We can look particularly at areas around chronic disease, and there are opportunities to bend that cost curve and make care more efficient."

For patients facing a significant medical condition or treatment such as surgery, the program provides virtual access to a Cleveland Clinic physician who will review the diagnosis and treatment plan. Following an evaluation of medical records and labs, patients receive a second opinion from an expert in their medical condition covering diagnosis, treatment options or alternatives as well as recommendations regarding future therapeutic considerations. Patients also have the unique opportunity to speak with the physician expert directly to address questions or concerns.
“We have found that 28% of our second opinion consults result in a diagnosis change, while treatment plans are modified in 72% of the patient cases we review,” said Peter Rasmussen, M.D., chief clinical officer with The Clinic. “Our approach not only instills greater healthcare consumer confidence and enhances their care experience, but also gives providers, health plans and employers the means to significantly reduce costs through more accurate, evidence-based patient recommendations and care plans.”