Q&A: Roy Schoenberg on telehealth

By Bernie Monegain
10:35 AM
Amercan Well CEO sees dramatic market opportunity

Roy Schoenberg, CEO of American Well, discusses his vision for the future of telehealth. Schoenberg heads the company's product development as well as the rest of its operations divisions. Roy and his brother, Ido, who serves as CEO of American Well, have worked together for many years, both as physicians and as entrepreneurs. Roy Schoenberg discusses his path to American Well and his vision for telehealth – whose impact on healthcare could be as dramatic as the one online sales had on the retail marketplace.

What prompted you and your brother to move from providing patient care to forming a telehealth company?

It wasn’t a direct transition. American Well is our third company. At the time, practicing medicine, we both lived in hospital systems, and worked in intensive care units. The first company we formed – a company called MDSoft – was all about computerizing systems. This was many, many years ago. We created a computer system that connected to the different devices in an intensive care unit and collected all the information and tried to interpret it and present it to the physicians and nurses on the floor in a way that made more sense. When you walk into ICU everything is beeping and bleeping at you, and it’s an overwhelming experience of trying to understand what’s going on there. We created a system that consolidates all of that information and make sense out it, and only alerts and only presents information for the provider that needs intervention on. That worked very well. It was a very successful company and sold. So, we did well in that.

[See also: VA taps American Well for telehealth work.]

What about your second company?

The second company that we formed was already a second-generation. This was already the Internet age – the beginning of it. It was a company called CareKey, and that company established the notion of Web-based medical records – essentially what today are called PHRs, portable health records. This was at the time that HIPAA was enacted, and we had a solution over the Web that allowed patients to pretty much control their records and control the dissemination of their information, and luckily for us, all of the health plans out there realized that with HIPAA comes a great burden on them to communicate with patients because patients now have control over their information. So suddenly every plan out there decided they needed to have a patient portal and they needed to have a patient communication strategy that included a different set of tools – over technology, over the Web and telephony and everything else. We were ready with a very mature platform, so that company did well and got acquired by TriZetto.