Boston-based American Well has worked with insurance companies for several years to provide “telehealth” services to some of their members. But since October, it has begun offering its virtual visits directly to consumers over their computer, smartphone or tablet, typically charging $49 for the convenience of an online primary care visit 24 hours a day without an appointment. As part of its Massachusetts launch Thursday, an initial visit here will cost $20.
Doctors can write prescriptions for common medications such as antibiotics, but not for drugs such as painkillers.
Doctors, hospitals and regulators are scrambling to keep up with the evolving field of telemedicine, trying to balance patient convenience with quality-of-care considerations. American Well’s model is part of a new frontier in medical technology, but one that leaves some physicians squeamish.