Providers make virtual house calls

12/15/2017  

By Sue Cody

 

Virtual Clinic

It’s a wintry Saturday night. Snow covers the ground. Your 3-year-old daughter’s cough worsens and she develops a fever. The cough and fever seem serious, but not bad enough for the emergency room.

What if you could use your phone or computer to chat with a doctor instead of going to the ER?  

Columbia Memorial Hospital now offers that option with its Virtual Clinic. People can talk to a health care provider 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can connect on your computer or smartphone and have a virtual face-to-face visit.

At a flat cost of $39, this is cheaper than the emergency room and even most doctor visits.

“For those without insurance or with high deductibles it is a great option,” says Jeanette Schacher, Medical Group director at CMH. “You don’t have to bundle up and go out in the middle of the night. You can speak with a provider from the convenience of your home, and there is no waiting in an urgent care clinic.”

Anyone in Oregon and Washington can use the service, except people with Medicaid or Tricare coverage.

How it works

If you have a minor illness or complaint, log in to the website, https://columbiamemorial.org/virtual-clinic/

You can connect via Skype, FaceTime or Video Chat.

After a brief registration, a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner asks you about your condition, offers a diagnosis and recommends the best course of treatment. If a prescription is needed, it will be called into your local pharmacy.

In the first few minutes, the doctor will decide if you need to be seen in person and will refer you to a doctor. When that happens, the call will end and you will not be charged.

Visits usually last about 20 minutes.

The Virtual Clinic is designed for minor illnesses such as:

  • Pink eye
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Allergies
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Congestion
  • Back pain
  • Burns 

 

Following the call, a summary of the visit will be sent to your secure online account. Referrals to primary care providers are given to people who need them. Notes on the visit are sent to your primary care physician within 15 minutes.

The Virtual Clinic is a win-win for CMH and patients. Schacher says, “It gives us access to a continuum of care, and it’s better for a patient to have all the medical records in one place.”

Filling a need

Virtual Care Clinic began in April at CMH for three reasons, says Schacher.

“We recognized the shortage of primary care physicians in the area and saw people over-utilizing emergency rooms, which is very expensive.”

Secondly, she says, with new health insurance plans many are facing higher deductibles and may be reluctant to visit their primary care provider. Others have no insurance. Virtual Care offers one flat rate of $39, which is more affordable.

Third, it gives Columbia Memorial the opportunity to refer people without a primary provider to one in their area.

What is not covered

CMH Virtual Clinic cannot provide care for those with government insurance, such as Medicaid and Tricare. However, Medicaid members may call their provider office day or night to reach a person to consult about a medical question.

The providers cannot treat anything that requires labs or imaging and will not prescribe or refill controlled medications such as:

  • Narcotics (e.g. Oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Codeine
  • Anti-anxiety medications (e.g. Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin)
  • Stimulants (i.e, Adderall, Ritalin)

 

Outcome

A mom realized her son might have pinkeye. If that was the case, she knew he couldn’t go to school. She discovered she was right. Without leaving home or waiting in an urgent care clinic, she was able to move forward with treatment and her plans for the day.

The 30 or so users have been very satisfied, Schacher says. “We are thrilled with the Virtual Clinic. As the community learns about this great service, it will grow.”

The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, support health care and access for all.

For more information, visit the website: https://columbiamemorial.org/virtual-clinic/