In retailing, companies that combine the internet, stores and catalogs in a way that enables consumers to shop how they want and when they want is called omnichannel.

In healthcare, Great Neck, New York-based Northwell Health, which operates 21 hospitals and related clinics serving more than two million patients annually, is using the same concept to give patients easier access to medical and administrative services.

Northwell Health operates a diverse and complicated health system that includes an $11 billion annual operating budget, 6,675 hospital and long-term care beds, 3,900 physicians and 15,000 nurses.

By 2018 Northwell Health aims to be well on the path to having a more universal digital healthcare portal that in addition to giving patients and clinicians access to electronic medical records also gives patients more ways to see a doctor online, says Northwell associate chief medical officer and senior vice president of clinical strategy and development Dr. Martin Doerfler. We intend to be a soup-to-nuts healthcare provider when it comes to serving patients, Doerfler says.

The key to providing health system staff and patients with more digital healthcare service options is consolidating and expanding the systems telehealth service. Northwell Health has been operating a diverse telehealth program for about six yearsmostly for inside the hospital services. For example Northwell has telehealth services for psychiatryincluding childrens psychiatryintensive care and for home care, among other departments.

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Northwell is now consolidating and expanding its telehealth program as a big part of giving patients and clinicians access to a more comprehensive digital health portal, Doerfler says. As part of the plan Northwell eventually will consolidate it telehealth services from multiple vendors down to a pair. The pair includes Philips Healthcare and Avizia Inc.

This week Northwell Health inked an agreement with Avizia whereby Northwell Ventures, the investment arm of Northwell Health, will invest $1 million in Avizia, Northwell says. With Avizia, Northwell aims to align the telehealth infrastructure for its 21 hospitals and more than 550 outpatient practices throughout the New York metropolitan area, Northwell says. That will provide uniform telehealth technology for the systems physician offices, imaging centers, laboratories, same-day surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, home care, emergency medical and air ambulance services. Our enterprise telehealth partnership with Avizia will allow us to develop a robust, direct-to-consumer telehealth platform, Doerfler says.

The Avizia agreement also will enable the various types of Northwell providers the telehealth capability to virtually consult with each other, says Avizia CEO Mike Baird. The platform enables Northwell to better coordinate care and get the patients the services they need, regardless of their location, Baird says.

Eventually the Philips telehealth platform will be used for most hospital departments and the Avizia platform will provide telehealth services to patients, Doerfler says. Both telehealth platforms also at some point will be integrated with Northwells core electronic health records system from Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc.

Northwell isnt saying how much it will spend to update, expand and centralize its telehealth capability. I can say the budget will grow by more than 100%, Doerfler says.

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Northwell doesnt have a set timeline for when the health system will complete this digital healthcare integration project. But by 2018 Northwell does expect to be well on its way, Doerfler says. The goal is bricks and mortar and digital tied together for complete patient service, he says.

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