Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Telemedicine and Electronic Access to Doctors
Formerly defined, telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.  Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.
The last sentence in the first paragraph in a story got me started,
“Once a way for people in rural areas to access medical specialists, telemedicine is now being piloted by Rite Aid at its in-store clinics. Competitors Walgreens and CVS may not be far behind. Where does that leave traditional healthcare providers?”
Where indeed does this leave the doctors?  It’s a good question.  My answer is: it leaves them pursuing new ways to communicate with patients , a subject Kevin Pho, MD, has laid out in detail in his new book Establishing, Managing and Protecting Your Online Reputation; A Social Media Gyud for Physicians and Medical Practices (Greenbranch Publishing, 2013.
“The Times They Are A’Changing” as the Bob Dylan song lyrics go.  Led by Rite Aid, the pharmaceutical industry may soon be offering telemedicine services at many of its drugstores. 
According to the HealthLeaders’ piece.
“Rite Aid has been dabbling in telemedicine since 2011, when it began testing NowClinic at nine stores in Detroit. The service allows health clinic patients to have a private, one-on-one consultation via video conference with a physician from OptumHealth—rather than a nurse practitioner who handles in-store visits. The 10-minute consultations cost $45, and physicians either diagnose a condition and prescribe.”
This is powerful stuff.  OptumHealth, is  a $30 billion branch of United Health. Optum is the nation’s largest collector of medical claims data on 100 million people.
The article continues:
“While Rite Aid is the first retailer to launch a telemedicine pilot at its in-store clinics, others are likely to follow in the highly competitive retail pharmacy business. Walgreens has a network of 700 Take Care clinics in its stores, and CVS has Minute Clinics in more than 650 locations.
"I don't think you'll see either Walgreens or CVS sit on the sidelines for very long," said Benjamin Forstag, senior director of communications for the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).”
So what are doctors to do?   A first step might be to set up a practice website. A second might be to market their services on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.  A third might be to charge for answering emails.   A fourth might be to investigate who to use Skype to schedule audiovisual visits.  A fifht might be to align themselves with local and ntional  pharmacies.

A sixth might be to follow the lead of a group of doctors who formed  This company claims that 70% of doctor visits and 40% of ER visits could be handled just as well with much more efficiency at less cost telephonically at the cost of lss than $50 a mont for a family of five.

Other companies are entering the telemedicine arena

·         AmeriDoc (
·         Consult A Doctor (

·         HealthCare Magic (httup://

·         InteractiveMD ( 

·         TeleDoc( 

Tweet: The age of telemedicine may be about to arrive at your corner drug store,   your home computer,   your smart phone, and your mobile device.






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