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Virtual health spaces could save patients time, money

Pilot program aims for convenience, lower cost
Posted at 4:03 AM, May 16, 2018

These days we're always looking for ways to cut the cost of medical care. One idea being tested that could save time and money is called "Integrated Care," which allows for patients to virtually connect with physicians.

It might seem like just another phone call, in just another office, but when Richard Hughes-Findley's daughter was having an allergic reaction, a specially-designated space at his job allowed for her to be helped quickly.

"My wife called me and talking about my daughter having a allergic reaction," Hughes-Findley said. "So normally how that worked is I would rush home and try to get there and then usually we go to urgent care of the E.R. and try to figure out what was going on."

Instead he got on a computer his employers set up, and in minutes, was connected to a doctor.

"They confirmed that we need to give her the Benadryl and then monitor it because she only had one zone that was reacting," Hughes-Findley said. "And that if it exploded or got worse then we could give her the IP pen and then take her to the ER."

Hughes-Findley's daughter wasn't seen by a doctor in person, but her issue was solved. All without him having to leave his job.

"Once it subsided I went back to work," Hughes-Findley said.

With just a few steps, Hughes-Findley can go from work to the Kaiser Permanente Integrated Care Room that's been set up at his job. There, he can connect with a doctor by chat, phone, or even video.

The doctor can help employees take their temperature and even their blood pressure. They have access to all of the patient's medical records, so they can give a complete assessment and even make follow up appointment.

Dr. Pierre Onda with Kaiser Permanente helped develop the pilot program to test a new concept in health care and said he believes this is the future of health care. His team has found virtual care can often be more efficient than in person treatment.

"There is maybe 50 to 60 percent of the problems that people are coming in can be addressed through that venue," Dr. Onda said. "So certainly not all of the problems but a significant portion of those problems can be managed."

Other factors? Cost and convenience. Americans pay more for in person visits, and Onda says making it easier to connect with you doctor, makes it easier for your doctor to provide excellent care.

"To me this is just a way where I can extend the care and that I already do more conveniently for my patients," Dr. Onda said.