For Toby Cosgrove, the former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, the “aha” moment came five years ago.
While on vacation, his daughter came down with a rash on her face. Cosgrove said he took a photo of the rash and sent it to a dermatologist. Soon, the answer came back: poison ivy. No trip to a physical doctor's office needed.
“I realized right then that this has an enormous potential,” Cosgrove, who's now a top healthcare adviser to Google, told Business Insider. The then-CEO said he sent out “scouts” around the country looking for companies who could help bring that experience to the patients at the Cleveland Clinic.
In the end, his scouts came back with American Well, a privately held telemedicine company that works with more than 160 health systems to provide virtual healthcare services for patients. The two joined up in 2015 to provide virtual urgent care to patients across Ohio.
“It was hard to ignore the fact that he got it and at a time very few people understood what we were trying to do.”American Well CEO Ido Schoenberg said.
The challenges facing virtual healthcare
On Thursday, Cosgrove joined the board of American Well, where he'll help advise Schoenberg. He also recently joined the board of direct-to-consumer virtual health startup Hims.
Cosgrove retired from from his post as Cleveland Clinic CEO in 2017 and now serves as an executive advisor to Google Cloud Healthcare and as an executive advisor to the Cleveland Clinic.
Cosgrove said there are two challenges facing the adoption of virtual healthcare visits. The first is making sure patients are comfortable with the idea of talking to a doctor via video, phone, or messaging rather than in person and have access to it. The second is convincing doctors to get on board with virtual care, something Cosgrove has experience with coming out of his role at Cleveland Clinic.
“At the end of the day, doctors really are about serving patients,” Cosgrove said. “This is just a new way of doing it, which raises enormous advantages.”
Cosgrove becomes the 10th member of American Well's board, joining cofounders Ido and Roy Schoenberg, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, and Massachusetts General Hospital president Peter Slavin.
“American Well grew very rapidly and is going to continue to grow very rapidly,” Ido Schoenberg said. “As we grow the challenges and the questions the board is facing are becoming much more complicated. And Toby is not only a big thinker, he's also a very strong independent, straight shooter.”