Telehealth provider Consult A Doctor plans to debut two new additions to its remote-care platform at the HIMSS12 health care IT conference from Feb. 20-24 in Las Vegas to allow hospitals and clinics to customize access plans for cloud-based virtual visits.
Consult A Doctor is a cloud-based platform that allows patients to consult with a doctor or health plan at any hour.
"It goes through the Internet, so when you call, you're actually calling into the cloud platform," Wolf Shlagman, founder and CEO of Consult A Doctor, told eWEEK.
The company's two new platforms are called MyHospital 24/7 and MyClinic 24/7. The service operates over VOIP, email or video.
Consult A Doctor also plans to launch a mobile telehealth platform in the first quarter of 2012.
When doctors communicate with patients using the service, they can add recorded calls or videos to an electronic health record (EHR) for a patient.
With My Hospital 24/7 and MyClinic 24/7, hospitals and clinics will offer telehealth services for doctors on staff and those affiliated with the facility. Consult A Doctor also supports e-prescribing and lab services.
Hospitals will be able to customize price plans for telehealth service, such as $10 a month or $20 a month or a "walk-up" price, said Shlagman.
"They'll be able to start offering these services at Walmart prices," he said. Hospitals' customized plans could also bundle services such as diagnostic tests, he said.
With health systems acquiring many physician practices, the model of hospitals offering telehealth themselves could be appealing to doctors, he noted. "Because of [hospitals'] acquisitions of practices, they could in turn start offering some of these services," said Shlagman.
Telehealth could be valuable to patients in remote areas or many miles from a hospital. In states such as Massachusetts, patients may have to wait a month or longer to see a doctor," Shlagman noted.
In addition, telehealth could be helpful just to get a second opinion, said Shlagman.
"This allows you to build relationships into the home before anyone would ever walk into the hospital," said Shlagman.
The company's other services are Consult A Doctor 24/7, My Practice 24/7 and My Health Plan 24/7, which allow doctors, practices and health plans, respectively, to offer the technology.
By licensing its telehealth platform to hospitals, Consult A Doctor is like an "Intel Inside" for these customized platforms, Shlagman explained. He sees many health plans offering telehealth services going forward.
A leading vendor, American Well, also offers its Online Care telehealth service to health plans such as OptumHealth and Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Online Care is available in 22 states. In 2012, American Well plans to expand its service further globally.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and pharmacies such as RiteAid use Online Care. In September 2011 American Well announced biometric-monitoring capabilities using a gateway from NumeraNet that enables health data to be transmitted through PCs, mobile devices and telehealth home hubs.
Telehealth is an option for health care when the patient's condition is a nonemergency, Shlagman noted. The technology could free up ER for actual emergencies, he said.
"Now with telemedicine, you're going to help relieve some of the congestion in the health system and make care more available, whether it's through primary care, specialists or diagnostic services," said Shlagman.
Although Consult A Doctor supports video, Shlagman notes patients and doctors have little interest in video conferencing. Less than 5 percent of patients are interested in submitting to a video telehealth exam, he said.
"The demand for it is not really there for the consumer for everyday use and neither for the doctor, but it's something that will creep in," said Shlagman. "Doctors are comfortable with the phoneemail to a lesser degree."
Doctors or patients often struggle with technical issues related to video, he suggested.
"Technical know-how in some cases can be an issue," he said. "You don't want that to get in the way of the clinical efficacy of delivering the service."