Cleveland Clinic, the top ranked hospital in the newly released Digital Hospital 500, will soon launch some major additions to its consumer telehealth program, the health system’s top telehealth executive tells Internet Health Management.

Cleveland Clinic, the top ranked hospital in the newly released Digital Hospital 500, will soon launch some major additions to its consumer telehealth program, the health system’s top telehealth executive tells Internet Health Management.

The Cleveland Clinic launched a consumer telehealth program using American Well as its software and telehealth network vendor in September of 2014, says Cleveland Clinic medical director, distance health Dr. Peter Rasmussen. Now within the next few months Cleveland Clinic, which currently offers digital doctor visits for acute conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, cough and cold, ear aches, flu, minor back and shoulder pain, minor burns, traumas and lacerations, rashes, sinus and related infections, will also offer new telehealth services for online dermatology and behavioral health.

Details of the expansion are still being worked out. Cleveland Clinic will use American Well as its software vendor, but will utilize its own providers to conduct telehealth visits. Digital provider visits for behavioral health—which include treatment for maladies such as depression and anxiety—will launch online within two weeks to four weeks, Rasmussen says. Online dermatology visits will be rolled out within two months to four months, he says.

“Telemedicine is a high priority for us,” Rasmussen says.

Cleveland Clinic, which call its consumer telehealth program for urgent care Express Care and charges $49 for a visit, also plans to expand to 25 states from 14 states by the end of the year.

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In 2016 telehealth visits of all kinds including for acute stroke response, neurological inpatient consults, dermatology, triage, patient-requested second opinions and nutrition consults, totaled about 9,700 visits, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That’s out of  total 2016 outpatient visits that numbered 7.1 million visits.

Telemedicine is a high priority for us

But consumer telehealth visits are growing. The current monthly number for acute care, or minor condition, digital doctor visits is about 800 and the Cleveland Clinic is adding about 100 more acute care telehealth visits every 30 days, Rasmussen says.

The number of staff physicians trained to conduct a telehealth visit now totals 1,200 doctors, or 34%, of all 3,500 Cleveland Clinic physicians. About 500 doctors, or 14% of the physician staff, are currently doing actual online patient visits, Rasmussen says. “At some point we want to have all of our physicians trained in telehealth,” he says.

Cleveland Clinic is looking to expand telehealth in diverse ways. In February Cleveland Clinic announced a new service called the Global MedAssist Program with VIGILINT, a medical and travel risk management company, to provide telehealth services for international travelers.

“As a leader in telemedicine and distance health initiatives, GMAP has been developed to remove the geographic barriers to care, anywhere, anytime,” says Dr. Jonathan Schaffer, managing director, Cleveland Clinic Distance Health My Consult.

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Going forward Cleveland Clinic’s next big expansion will be for launching new telehealth programs to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other maladies. “We are just getting started with telehealth,” Rasmussen says.