InteractiveMD, a telehealth provider, is preparing to launch a video conferencing upgrade to its 24-hour telemedicine platform on Aug. 18 that allows doctors to conduct live video examinations remotely and on demand.
InteractiveMD, a unit of health care solutions company iCan Group, currently offers telephonic and secure e-mail platforms. InteractiveMD creates an EMR (electronic medical record) for each patient and will now incorporate video into this record. Doctors and patients will save phone conversations, e-mail and video to the EMR as well as full medical histories.
Through the telehealth interface, doctors will treat patients for conditions such as skin ailments, colds, allergies, cuts, bruises and viral respiratory infections.
"From a medical perspective, it's a way that technology allows us to apply evidence-based medicine to common conditions we see every day in a cost-effective medium," Dr. Kevin Friedman, InteractiveMD's medical director, told eWEEK.
Doctors working with InteractiveMD are a part of the Telemedicine Consulting Network. Patients determine who can view the medical records, Friedman noted. The company says 40,000 to 50,000 people are currently using the system.
Health insurers are mandated to reimburse patients for telehealth visits in 12 states, including California, Maine, Oregon and Texas. Some employers are including telemedicine options as part of benefit packages, according to InteractiveMD.
"Insurance companies are now accepting this as a basic tenet," Friedman said.
Insurance providers that participate include UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and WellPoint. However, being covered by insurance is not a requirement to participate.
"There are still millions and millions of uninsured Americans who don't have access to a doctor," Ghen Sugimoto, InteractiveMD's vice president of marketing, told eWEEK.
Friedman said with a 20-day wait to get in at some doctors' practices, the online system should help fill patients' immediate needs.
Telehealth has proven to be a useful tool for military veterans, especially those living in rural areas who may not be able to get to a doctor.
According to Sugimoto, in addition to offering it to consumers, the company plans to offer the service in an enterprise environment, to the military and to NASA.
The Web service is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-compliant and protected by 128-bit data encryption. Sugimoto said the government's push to mandate meaningful use of EMRs has been a driving force in the development of the InteractiveMD platform.
InteractiveMD offers plans for singles, couples and families. There is a one-time enrollment fee of $15, and monthly subscription fees run from $9.99 to $24.99, depending on the plan level (Starter Plans provide a year free). Similar to co-pay fees, consultations with a physician via phone or video cost $40 per session. "For a very affordable cost, that same person can go online and pick up the phone and connect with the doctor day and night," Sugimoto said.
Within the next year, InteractiveMD plans to incorporate Bluetooth USB devices from third-party manufacturers to examine patients remotely, including digital stethoscopes, USB otoscopes (to examine ears) and blood pressure monitors. InteractiveMD will also expand the service to offer platforms for specific medical areas, including weight loss, mental health and chronic disease management.
On Aug. 2, GE and Intel announced a joint venture company that will focus on telehealth for the aging population and those with chronic conditions.
In addition to the home, telehealth is also used in hospitals. Manufacturers such as LG, PDi, Philips and Samsung offer LCD TVs designed for this purpose.