Saturday, September 17, 2011

Popularity of Telemedicine Grows in Michigan, U.S.

Instant online access to docs at Michigan Rite-Aid stores:
Detroit News -- "Michiganians who have an urgent medical question, lack insurance or just want access to a doctor and prescription after hours can increasingly reach for their phones or computers for an instant chat or webcam conversation with a physician or nurse. Telemedicine and telehealth — the practice of medicine using electronic communication between a physician in one location and a patient in another — is growing in popularity in the state and across the country. 

At health fairs today, nine Southeast Michigan Rite Aid stores will debut OptumHealth's NowClinic, which allows consumers to talk to a nurse for free or use a credit card and pay $45 for a private appointment with a doctor licensed to practice in Michigan — anytime the store is open and online 24 hours a day. Doctors can diagnose patients and, when appropriate, write them a prescription, which can be filled at Rite Aid stores.

Several online health companies such as MDLiveCare and Consult A Doctor are growing by forming partnerships with health insurers and employers as a way to lower health care costs. Through its wellness program, Taylor-based Masco Corp. (NYSE:MAS) provides its about 500 headquarters' employees and dependents free access to MDLiveCare, which has board-certified, Michigan-licensed physicians available 24/7.

"We really wanted to see how it works and to have an alternative to seeing your primary care doctor, running to the urgent care for things that were minor in nature," said Julie Forrester, director of benefits for Masco, which makes several brand-name home products.

During the past six months, Masco has recorded about 40 different doctor visits for non-emergencies, Forrester said. The service can save employees time and money, as co-pays for an office visit run $20 to $25 and up to $100 for a trip to urgent care, Forrester said. If successful, Masco is considering putting a kiosk — which includes MDLiveCare and other wellness tools for employees — into some of its manufacturing locations, where access to health care may be more difficult."

HT: Mike W.

10 Comments:

At 9/17/2011 10:47 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

Dr. Watson: How IBM’s supercomputer could improve health care

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dr-watson-how-ibms-supercomputer-could-improve-health-care/2011/09/14/gIQAOZQzXK_story.html?hpid=z4

 
At 9/18/2011 2:57 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Good link larry g, thanks...

Still for Watson to become Dr. Watson one would hope there'll be some tweaking when it comes to understanding the English language...

 
At 9/18/2011 8:52 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

Services such as this could be an important alternative when hospitals stop paying pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical companies stop delivering drugs to hospitals.

 
At 9/18/2011 11:47 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

It's been postulated that recommendations that come from a Dr. Watson type computer program may absolve a physician at least partially from malpractice suits if it's recommendations are based on industry-standard data and outcomes.

this could also put a powerful tool in the hands of Doc-in-the-box clinics .....

if such a tool as this can look at an electronic medical history for the patient - ....

a lot of "ifs" here ... but this could be the thing that breaks the stranglehold that the health care industry has on people.

I'd fully expect health care providers to mount an "all-hands-on-deck" opposition to this and try to get the govt to outlaw it.

of course.. if such a thing as a Dr. Watson diagnostic toll ever comes to fruition - it will cause massive unemployment in the health care industry because many, many half-assed and expensive and flawed diagnostic work and treatment will fall by the wayside.

 
At 9/18/2011 5:47 PM, Blogger Ian Random said...

Larry G,

A few years ago there was a product called Knowledge Connector that prescreened patients and suggested possible courses of action for the doctor.

 
At 9/19/2011 1:33 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"It's been postulated that recommendations that come from a Dr. Watson type computer program may absolve a physician at least partially from malpractice suits if it's recommendations are based on industry-standard data and outcomes."

Postulated by whom?

Doctors already diagnose based on their training and experience, what you might call "industry standard data and outcomes".

No doctor will likely be excused from responsibility for a bad outcome by claiming that a computer made him do it.

However, the use of such a service to aid in diagnosis would no doubt add many additional names to the list of defendants.

 
At 9/19/2011 1:49 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Still for Watson to become Dr. Watson one would hope there'll be some tweaking when it comes to understanding the English language..."

I, for one, am happy to see Watson trouncing human competitors. Perhaps when the only possible Jeopardy winner is Watson, viewers will lose interest, and that annoying program will cease to be aired.

It's not that I mind other people watching it, and I can certainly change the channel when I'm at home, but it seems like any time I'm in a waiting room with a TV, others are watching it with great enjoyment.

As for Dr. Watson, I'm sure the clever thing can be programed to converse with you in any language or accent you wish. So, for example f you feel especially comfortable with doctors from Sri Lanka, you can select that accent.

 
At 9/19/2011 1:51 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Services such as this could be an important alternative when hospitals stop paying pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical companies stop delivering drugs to hospitals."

Yep, incentives matter, bob wright. :)

 
At 9/19/2011 7:03 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

thanks Ian .. the point of the
"Watson" computer story was that more and more "intelligence" is now being incorporated into software that enables the software to essentially process comprehensive data that used to overwhelm computers.

that means you could go into a doc-in-the-box and get a preliminary diagnosis based on your symptoms and supplied medical history by comparing it with millions of others with similar symptoms and medical histories.

It does not mean that you won't eventually need a top-notch doctor at the next stage but what it does mean if that if you don't have a primary care physician that this could be a not-unreasonable alternative .... since one of the primary strengths of primary care physicians is their familiarity with your history.

and that's been a significant issue for people who don't have a regular primary care physician tend to move around...

re: tort issues "postulations"

I'd support tort reform for cases were standards were followed and I'd also support informed support for when the treatment starts to vary from standards.

I don't know what the tort situation is in countries that offer universal care but I'm not convinced that tort is the cause of double health care costs in this country anyhow.

the reason lots of tests and therapies are ordered is because there is profit in doing so and easy to blame on protection.

I myself have seen multiple individual tests ordered that would have been all included in a comprehensive panel that cost less that the individual test added up.

when I asked why - I was told that the other tests were not needed.

then I noticed that my insurance limited payment to what the comprehensive test cost - anyhow.

so then I wondered once again why the doc took the extra time and effort to list out the various tests rather than writing one line for a comprehensive panel and his bill reflected the extra time on task "effort".

Health care is a racket and the reason the profession is against standardized scheme electronic medical records is that it makes it super easy to keep changing docs until you find the one you want - or for that matter to shop the doc-in-the-box options.

sure.. I could scan in my medical records to a USB but without being in a standardized format - it's really no different that me xeroxing my records - no doctor is going to take the time to read through a couple hundred pages - and should have to.

if the medical history was in a standardized form/format - a "Dr. Watson" type program could process it and generate a one or two page summary report with annotations.

yes.. someone would have to be paid to re-key the data - ONCE but that would actually be a job for someone and in the end the act of doing that would replace workers who shuffle paper.

can this happen without the govt?

maybe... probably.. but not as quickly... and may take decades.

 
At 9/19/2011 7:24 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

correction:

".. and I'd also support informed support"

informed consent

in other words - treatment options that vary from standards are disclosed and require signed acknowledgement.

I would include in this - the statistics for outcomes for specified treatments.

For instance if a treatment option yield, on average, a 50% failure rate - then people who are presented with that option - have to sign an informed consent - acknowledging that they are aware of the "hail Mary" option.

so ... we have tort reform but we target where the problems are.

if the treatment stays within industry standard - then lawsuits are capped.

by the way - medical lawsuits are already capped in several states and health care costs in general do not seem to vary much but I'd love to see Mr. Perry post such a graph and perhaps my view would change.

 

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