St. Louis-based Ascension Health will be the first delivery system to offer patients real-time online or telephone consultations with primary care physicians and other clinicians via the services of American Well, Boston.

American Well has marketed its Online Care Web-based service to health insurers and now is moving into the provider market. Some organizations offering the service pay for the consultations while others offer it as a fee-for-service where the consumer pays.

The consultation service will start this spring with a yet-to-be-named Health Ministry, or local division, of Ascension Health. Ascension over time will expand the service and develop programs to pay for consultations rendered to certain vulnerable populations, while other consumers will pay. Ascension's Health Ministries will identify physical sites in underserved areas where individuals can access Online Care services.

American Well has integrated Online Care with the personal health records software of and related tools of Microsoft Corp.'s HealthVault consumer health portal. This will enable consumers to maintain their personal information and share it with the consulting clinicians. Online Care also integrates with the transactions processing services of RealMed, Indianapolis, to facilitate payments.

American Well will integrate with Ascension's information systems. Consulting clinicians will have authorized access to pertinent patient data via Ascension systems and a HealthVault PHR if available and through patient-supplied information.

More information is available at americanwell.com and ascensionhealth.org.

--Joseph Goedert

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