Programs Offering Online Consultations With Doctors Pick Up Steam

TOPIC ALERT:

An increasing number of programs are offering online physician visits, U.S. News & World Report reports.

Current Offerings

The Hawaii Medical Service Association uses technology from American Well to offer patients 10-minute, online physician visits. The virtual visits cost $10 for members and $45 for nonmembers.

This fall, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota launched an online physician visit pilot program using American Well technology. The health plan will expand the service to all of its members by mid-2010. In addition, American Well has partnered with Optum Health, a division of UnitedHealth Group, to make online physician visits available to all consumers, regardless of their health plan provider.

Meanwhile, MDLiveCare is a national online physician visit service with more than 100,000 members who may or may not be insured. Each member pays a flat fee of $35 to consult online with primary care providers, specialists and therapists in the MDLiveCare Network.

Patient Interest, Benefits

A recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that half of U.S. residents are interested in using the Internet to receive health care.

Proponents of such technology say it can increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve patients' access to health care.  In addition, experts say telemedicine could help curb the federal government's health care costs (Johnson, U.S. News & World Report, 10/27).


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