Healthcare Technology: Virtual Office Visits (Telemedicine) for Routine Care

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Healthcare Technology: Virtual Office Visits (Telemedicine) for Routine Care

Rapid evolutions in healthcare technology impact our daily lives in many ways, including how we seek out and receive medical care. The recent surge in virtual medical office “visits,” via Internet and phone, is a transformation in the way routine healthcare is provided. It gives patients access to less expensive, round-the-clock care for minor conditions, while offering physicians increased flexibility with their schedules.

Online Care for Common Minor Conditions

According to research from Deloitte, visits to primary care doctors comprised over half of overall physician visits, and eVisits (online consultations) could have resolved a large number of these issues. Virtual office visits are no longer a futuristic concept: Healthcare companies nationwide have already begun incorporating eVisits into their practice.

Jamie Ferguson, Kaiser Permanente’s vice president of health IT strategy and policy, stated that many of the healthcare group’s regional systems are currently performing 50% of visits via virtual means—through video conferencing or secure mobile messaging. This number is expected to continue to rise.

UPMC (University of Pittsburg Medical Center) AnywhereCare offers online medical treatment to residents of Pennsylvania 24/7—365 days of the year. Online patients fill out a questionnaire about their current symptoms and receive a diagnosis with a recommended course of action. According to the company’s website, the following symptoms can be treated through an eVisit.

  • Back pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Burn
  • Cold
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Flu
  • Genital herpes
  • Pneumonia
  • Poison ivy
  • Rash
  • Red or pink eye
  • Scabies
  • Shingles
  • Sinus infection
  • Sore throat
  • Strep throat
  • Sunburn
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Vaginal irritation/discharge

Eric Christianson, an emergency department physician at Fairview Health Service in Minneapolis, has been participating in an online visit pilot program with BlueCross BlueShield. He states, “There’s no question that online care is something that is going to grow. This is just another layer we can utilize, and help with the efficiencies of the whole system.”

Benefits of Telemedicine: Convenience, Speed and Lower Costs

Although older consumers may not be comfortable using online visits, younger generations have been raised with computer technology and are likely to embrace the new model. According to Natasa Sokolovich, executive director of telemedicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, their patients are thrilled with the convenience and speed of remote healthcare.

Virtual office visits are beneficial in underserved or remote areas, and when consumers simply can’t get a doctor’s office due to weather or physical constraints. A physician can be reached when consumers are travelling, or when their primary care office isn’t open, such as late nights and holidays. Telemedicine can also help keep consumers out emergency rooms and urgent care.

Insurance companies such as Aetna and Cigna, as well as General Electric and Delta Air Lines are promoting telemedicine as means for decreasing healthcare costs and making it more readily available. Delta Air Lines offers NowClinic to some employees for just $10 per visit. According to Lynn Zonakis, managing director of health strategy and resources at Delta Air Lines, “Our employees just love the convenience, the low cost and the efficiency.”

Affordable, accessible healthcare can lead to a healthier society. If you’d like to determine if telemedicine is beneficial to your practice, the marketing professionals at Healthcare Marketing Group offer consultations to help you make informed decisions.

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