The Blog

VSee Asia Team on Island Retreat

The VSee family has grown so much in the past year! Since we can’t fit everyone on a houseboat for our annual retreat, VSee Team Asia and family members are getting their own bonding time on the lovely tropical island of Bali.

VSee Asia Team in Bali

VSee Asia Team in Bali

VSee in Bali


VSee CEO and Aneesh Chopra – Tech Argonauts on a Healthcare Adventure

Aneesh Chopra and Milton ChenMilton Chen, CEO of VSee got in some geek time with Aneesh Chopra last week to collaborate on one of Aneesh’s babies — the Argonaut Project— to make sharing electronic health records easier by using Internet open standards.

While standardizing electronic health information exchange doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of myths and heroes, it is a monumental task, and the Argonaut Project is taking the challenge by the horns.  Specifically, it aims to fast-track develop a first-generation API that will allow health professionals to share electronic health records (EHR), documents, and other health information across different systems. Their work builds upon a framework called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR. The HL7 standards commitee as well as several private companies and organizations— including athenahealthCernerEpicMayo Clinic, and McKesson— are coming together to make this vision a reality.

President Obama appointed Chopra to be the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO). Chopra previously served as the state of Virginia’s Secretary of Technology and is the author of Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government (May 2014).  Also, he recently started a new company called Hunch Analytics to more effectively use big data, especially in healthcare.

Teledoc and American Well Fight Over Telemedicine Software Patent

american well vs teledoc

American Well has filed a lawsuit against TeleDoc. The suit claims that TeleDoc violated American Well’s intellectual property rights . The news comes right on the heels of TeleDoc’s recent tangle with the Texas Medical Board.

According to FierceHealthIT, the issue is over American Well’s patent called “connecting consumers with service providers.” It concerns the backend system by which American Well matches care requests with available providers.  American Well says that “Teladoc is well aware that it has been engaging in and continues to engage in the unauthorized practice of American Well’s patented inventions.” They go on to claim that TeleDoc applied for a license to use American Well’s patents, but that American Well denied their request.

TeleDoc however is fighting back. It’s CEO Jason Gorevic told MobiHealthNews, “We very strongly believe that those patents are invalid. For one, American Well’s claims of being ‘first-to-market’ are demonstrably false due to the fact that Teladoc and others were providing telehealth long before American Well was even formed as a company. Second, the patents in question are impermissibly broad and cover matters that are too obvious to be patented.”

There’s no question that TeleDoc’s business model is not original or unique. The technology for telemedicine has been around for over a decade. But it’s hard to see how American Well could win this fight in court. After all, “connecting consumers with service providers” is something than many companies have done for years. Their claims sound a lot like patent trolling, that is, suing someone for “stealing” an idea that was already widely known. Whoever wins this fight, neither party can legitimately claim to be the world’s number-one telemedicine provider.

Not long ago TeleDoc had the largest market share in telemedicine. But they were late to adopt video, and they slipped from their #1 rank this year.

American Well started out building patient portals for hospitals. But their video solution, licensed from Vidyo, was expensive and complicated. They recently pivoted in order to offer their own online doctor service, to copy the successful MDLIVE and TelaDoc and business model.

Get the Latest Telehealth Policy at CCHPCA Website!

cchpca telehealth policy watch

VSee loves CCHPCA’s website! Telehealth policy is a complicated issue. We get a lot of questions from doctors: “How will I get reimbursed?” is a frequent one, along with “How do I see patients in other states?”

It’s natural for providers to ask these questions, because US law still hasn’t caught up with the technology. There’s a labyrinth of state regulations surrounding telemedicine. To help you navigate, we’ve worked hard to publish useful information on our blog. We even created this nifty map to show reimbursement laws in all 50 states. But laws are always changing, and it’s difficult to keep up.

So we are excited to see the website for the Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHPCA):

They’ve done exactly what we’ve striven to do on the VSee blog. They’ve devoted a whole section to “Telehealth Legislation and Regulation Tracking,” where you can look up pending bills and their status in every state across the country.

CCHPCA has created an invaluable resource for providers looking to start telemedicine. Check out their website today!

Teladoc services outlawed in Texas starting today (Updated)

Correction 6/4/2015:   As of Friday, May 29, the federal courts ruled in favor of Teladoc, therefore blocking the Texas Medical Board’s rule from taking effect on June 3. Click here for a press release with additional details regarding the antitrust lawsuit and recent ruling.

Starting today, Teladoc, the Dallas-based telemedicine giant, will no longer be able to provide its services legally.  Today, June 3, is the day the new Texas Medical Board (TMB) rules affecting telemedicine go into effect. The rule says that: “Establishing a diagnosis through the use of acceptable medical practices including documenting and performing patient history, mental status examination, and physical examination that must be performed as part of a face-to-face or in person evaluation….” (22 Texas Administrative Code 174.8 (a), emphasis added). This makes Teladoc’s services, which treats patients primarily by phone, illegal in most cases. However, there is an exemption for remote mental health visits.

Teladoc has had its share of run-ins with the TMB. Four years ago it had a tiff for Teladoc’s doctors prescribing drugs to patients they had not seen in person. Teladoc sued, and won a temporary injunction while the Texas board went through a rulemaking process. This latest rule follows another emergency rule issued by the board in January that required physicians to see a patient for an in-person visit before prescribing drugs.

Teladoc, founded in 2003, argues that the rules “take away Texans’ access to a safe, affordable and convenient health care option that many have depended upon for more than a decade.” Its CEO Jason Gorevic says, “The rules as they’re written today only allow a physician who has seen a patient in person tointeract with them remotely. That’s basically saying you can’t go shop anywhere else.”

The TMB’s rulings, however, does have the support of many physicians as well as the Texas Medical Association (TMA). The TMA stated in a letter that the new rules “protect patients and ensure telemedicine complements the efforts of local healthcare providers.” Bexar County Medical Society president Dr. James Humphreys emphasizes,”You have to be able to see them, listen to their heart, touch them. You can’t just answer a questionnaire over a phone.” Moreover, its ruling reflects the new technology guidelines released by the Federation of State Medical Boards as well as the American Medical Association last year.

However, Dallas healthcare attorney Brenda Tso suggests that the rules aren’t just about patient safety. “In this situation, doctors are trying to protect their practice from telemedicine,” she says.

Regardless of whether it’s about protecting financial interests, the fact is that Texas is the largest state in the continental US with a large spread out population. It already faces medical access issues in many of its more rural areas and really benefits from telemedicine. Of course, according to the new rules, Teladoc can still continue providing its services by switching to a video telemedicine platform.

Unlike MDLIVE and American Well, Teladoc has been slow to get in the video telemedicine market. It looks like now is a good time to take a look at VSee :)