In a previous note, I discussed how the Cleveland Clinic is now offering 24/7, no-appointment, telemedicine visits under their MyCare Online program to any Ohio resident for $49 (see: Cleveland Clinic Launches Web Site to Offer Physician Visits to Ohio Residents). At that time, I signed up for an account. I recently received an email from the Clinic detailing a MyCare Online visit. Below are a number of salient points about it, in part, extracted from a Youtube introductory video, a link to which was provided in the email:
- Patients are linked to a family practice physician whose professional profile can be viewed prior to entering the patient queue.
- The video suggests that the typical wait time for connection to a physician is "less than a couple of minutes" with prompts to indicate that he or she is seeing another patient when relevant to assess the wait-time
- The consulting physician can write an e-prescription at the end of the visit and send it electronically to the patient's drug store of choice.
- The video also, appropriately, provides many details about the necessary technology to launch a virtual visit such as the type of mobile device that can be used. A plug-in is offered for a laptop or desktop computer to enable high-definition video. Wi-fi connection is preferred, providing higher quality service over cellular. I use the term "appropriately" above because such technical details may be a barrier for the use of the service by some patients.
- The email provides a list of the relatively minor conditions that might prompt a a visit including the following: allergies; asthma; bronchitis; burns; colds; cough symptoms; earaches; eye conditions such as pinkeye; fever; flu; lacerations; minor back pain; minor trauma; rashes; shoulder pain; sinus infections; skin conditions; sore throat; urinary tract infections.
I have the following reaction to the program as it stands at this time:
- I am impressed with the quality of the marketing program. It's all very slick and very professional, as I would have expected from the Cleveland Clinic.
- The conditions covered would not be very different from those treated on a daily basis by a family physician, many of which can be adequately diagnosed without a physical examination. Visits are estimated in the introductory video to last "about ten minutes."
- Although I had suggested that the Cleveland Clinic was launching this service to prompt referrals of more complex cases, it now strikes me that this is intended to be largely a revenue-generating program using family practice physicians. It's also in line with the Clinic's history of rapid adoption of new IT and other technologies to deliver healthcare.
- To restate the obvious, the physicians seeing patients with a video link will be very able to triage the more seriously ill patients who log-in and refer them to a local emergency department or perhaps even to the Clinic itself in some cases.
- Given the limits of service to perhaps a dozen family medicine practitioners, the necessity for physician training to launch the program has probably not been that daunting. However, the initiative will provide an experience base for the Cleveland Clinic that can extend at a later time to other medical specialists.
- I will reiterate my previous statement that this is a game-changer for telemedicine. We see a very prestigious hospital going "all-in" for virtual e-visits. This can't be ignored by other health systems, certainly by other Ohio healthcare providers. I personally don't see how this program can fail.