So, you come down with a cold and you want to get a prescription for your cough and stuffy nose. You’ve been down this road 100 times in your life and dread going to the doctors office, waiting an hour in the waiting room, getting everyone else sick, only to get the script you normally get. Why can’t you call or FaceTime a doctor for simple illnesses? Actually, you can, but not many are taking advantage of it yet. Insurance companies see it as a supplemental process, but I suspect it will become more popular as price pushes us towards a virtual doctor.
Virtual doctors and telehealth are becoming popular, but not as quickly as you’d think. There are plenty of start-ups in this area but patients have just haven’t latched on yet. Insurance companies need to raise the awareness and support. Telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. The technologies include; videoconferencing, the internet, streaming media, and wireless – your phone.
“Patients Using Telehealth Services Will Explode to 7 Million by 2018” – HIT
Top Telehealth players in the game right now
Founded in 2010, CareClix coordinates with board-certified physicians around the world to provide a variety of telehealth services, including high-definition video examinations and remote consultations. CareClix also operates a provider care group, allowing physicians to offer their patients general and specialized services on demand around the clock.
On the patient side, the CareClix platform allows you to file and track claims online. You can also schedule telemedicine visits online and update them anytime through the self-scheduling feature. Visit the site here.
Doctor On Demand
Doctor On Demand takes the house call virtual, making it possible for doctors and patients to connect via live video conferences. Patients can be treated for a range of minor medical conditions, including sore throat, sports injuries, rashes and flu symptoms. In June 2015 the company announced a $50 million funding, designed to allow Doctor On Demand to expand its range of services and grow its customer base in the process. Visit the site here.
Recently named as one of the best entrepreneurial companies in America by Entrepreneur magazine’s Entrepreneur 360™, MyTelemedicine has emerged as a front runner in the industry. The platform allows patients to call or go online to schedule a consultation with a physician licensed in their state. A triage nurse takes note of their symptoms and updates the patient’s electronic health record.
The patient consults with the physician, who recommends a treatment plan. There’s no waiting in line at an urgent care facility or emergency room, and you don’t have to miss work to get medical care. In terms of options, patients can speak to a physician, pediatrician or even a behavioral therapist if needed. Visit the site here.
When time is of the essence, Teladoc connects you to the medical advice you need. Patients can speak to a physician via web, phone or mobile app in less than 10 minutes. The company reportedly has more than 17 million members who are served by over 3,600 licensed healthcare professionals, with 20 years of experience on average. Visit the site here.
If you’re looking for a virtual hospital while you’re away from home, look no further than iCliniq. The company offers online access to over 1,500 doctors in more than 80 specialties, and the platform caters specifically to expatriates and travelers. Patients can consult physicians anytime, day or night, and pay a flat fee to get their health questions answered. Visit the site here.
5 examples of where virtual doctors/telehealth is working
- Through a program at Boston-based Partners Healthcare, more than 3,000 congestive heart failure patients used at-home monitoring devices to send updates of their weight, blood pressure and other metrics to Partners. Clinical decision support software then helped identify the patients that needed interventions. The program allowed a panel of three or four nurses to provide care for 250 patients, and ultimately reduced readmissions among the participating patient population by 44 percent while generating cost savings of more than $10 million.
- A four-year program run by the Veterans Health Administration combined remote patient monitoring, health informatics and disease management technology to improve care for patients with six chronic conditions ranging from depression to diabetes. In addition to high patient satisfaction scores, the program also achieved a 25 percent drop in bed-days of care and a 19 percent reduction in hospital admissions as compared to traditional care.
- Kaiser Permanente dermatologists in San Diego are able to treat more patients by reviewing images and patient information uploaded and sent to them over a secure server by referring physicians, rather than seeing every patient in person. The practice’s physicians now handle 800 cases per month, 50 percent more than if they relied on face-to-face visits.
- About 13 percent of all intensive care unit beds in the country are supported by tele-ICU technology. At the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, having trained intensivists provide ICU care remotely resulted in a 20 percent decrease in mortality, a 30 percent drop in lengths of stay and reductions in care costs.
- Telemedicine can also help patients adhere to their medication regimes. A randomized trial at the Center for Connected Health, part of Partners Healthcare, showed the use of a wireless pill bottle that reminded patients to take their blood pressure medication increased adherence by 68 percent.
The Bottom Line
These are just a few telemedicine companies out there. The technology is in place and needs more educated consumer/patients to take advantage. Your doctors are already using technology to diagnose. Once the patient population adopts this process a little more, I really think this will be used for 50% of our visits. Frankly, I think it makes sense when used with proper follow-ups. And it’s quite possible the that quality might be better, with a doctor that’s able to give a patient more time. Ask your insurance provider if they offer this service ( I do not get paid for this).