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.