Multinational technology powerhouse Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and privately held telemedicine company American Well are joining forces to turn consumers’ television sets into virtual doctor’s offices.
Unlike telemedicine services that depend on tablets and similar mobile platforms, San Jose, California-based Cisco is reportedly in the early stages of creating a device meant to be used with TVs, according to CNBC, which broke the news Monday morning. TVs set up with Cisco’s telemedicine technology would then link up with American Well’s doctors and network of health care professionals.
Boston-based American Well currently provides urgent care web visits for patients in all 50 states. The telemedicine company has more than 130 health system partners, including Cleveland Clinic, Intermountain Healthcare and NewYork-Presbyterian.
Adding telemedicine capabilities to TVs already found in most U.S. homes would likely add appeal for many older adults and home care providers that take care of them, Cisco Collaboration VP of Marketing Aruna Ravichandran told Home Health Care News in an email.
“Telemedicine isn’t new to Cisco,” Ravichandran said. “That said, we see a very real opportunity here; the television is mainstream and easy to use — and is already up and running in many homes. Generally speaking, seniors are comfortable using it on their own — unlike other devices like smartphones or tablets.”
American Well had already been toying with the idea of adding telemedicine to TV for years, according to CNBC.
Multiple barriers existed, however, including the ability to remotely access TVs and adjust audio-visual settings when needed.
“Most every single home in America has at least one television set, and while the traditional programming for television has changed significantly over the last few years, its potential to act as a highly-engaged care point to drive better health monitoring, communication and confidence is untapped,” Dr. Roy Schoenberg, president and CEO at American Well, told HHCN in an email. “Cisco is an incredibly powerful partner as we extend health care more so into the home.”
Cisco’s new telemedicine plans come less than a month after Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) confirmed it is developing its own in-home health monitoring device capable of detecting falls and potentially preventing hospital readmissions.
Meanwhile, electronics retail giant Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) has also gotten into the at-home health monitoring game, namely through its acquisition of GreatCall, a provider of connected health and personal emergency response services for older adults.
Broadly, such efforts are part of where the U.S. health care system is ultimately headed, a recent report released by Deloitte Insights suggests.
“It is said that home is where the heart is,” the report reads. “In the future, home will also be where heart health is. Smart homes, enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), could be so in tune with daily routine that they will do the work for people by using equipment such as remote-monitoring biosensors.”
In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it was finalizing a set of policies designed to expand the use of telehealth benefits under the Medicare Advantage (MA) program.
That also factors into Cisco and American Well’s plans, according to Schoenberg.
“The reimbursement conditions for telehealth couldn’t be better,” he said. “Up until now, there has been limited Medicare reimbursement for telehealth, which meant patients were left to incur the entire cost of the visit.”
As a result of CMS’s telehealth initiatives, more than 40% of Medicare beneficiaries could be covered for telehealth in 2020, he added.
While seniors consistently have lower rates of technology adoption than the general public, they are more digitally connected than ever, according to Pew Research Center. In fact, consumer senior survey data collected in 2019 has found that nearly 24.85 million seniors — or about 52% of older adults — are willing to use telehealth, Schoenberg noted.
About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each and every day, making the market for home-based health care via telehealth massive.
“It’s no secret that the youngest baby boomers are 55 — and the oldest are in their 70s,” Ravichandran said. “The largest generation is at or nearing the stage of life where health care needs typically increase — and the health care profession is struggling to scale. We are passionate that video can help.”