(Bloomberg) — Community Health Systems Inc. (NYSE:CYH) figures its patients don’t always want to go to one of its almost 200 hospitals when they’re feeling ill.
The hospital system has struck a deal with American Well Corp. to offer online doctor visits for patients with colds or other minor ailments. The agreement is the latest piece of Community Health’s strategy to add more ways for its customers to see a physician, in addition to urgent-care clinics and doctors’ offices.
“We’ve been seeing that shift, as everyone has, from inpatient care to other points of care,” said Lynn Simon, Community Health’s president of clinical services and chief quality officer. “People are really moving towards convenience and easy access.”
Initially, the companies are offering the Web visits in Oklahoma and Washington. They plan to expand them to parts of Arizona and Pennsylvania by the end of March, and to other areas later on.
Community Health, based in Franklin, Tenn., is the second-largest U.S. chain of for-profit hospitals, with 30,000 beds. Simon said the Internet visits, which cost $39, won’t shift patients from Community Health’s emergency rooms and clinics, many of which serve rural communities. Instead, the people who show up probably wouldn’t have gone to see a doctor otherwise. The company figures that when Internet customers do need more care, they’ll choose to go to Community Health’s facilities, she said.
Roy Schoenberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of American Well, said urgent care is just the starting point. The Boston-based company has a three-year deal with Community Health that can be extended for an additional year. Both firms declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal.