How Is Telehealth Changing the Physician-Patient Relationship?

October 30, 2009

Earlier this week, an article in the U.S. News & World Report discussed how telehealth and e-mail communication are changing the physician–patient relationship.

Earlier this week, an article in the U.S. News & World Report discussed how telehealth and e-mail communication are changing the physician—patient relationship.

For example, the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) insurance plan allows patients to log onto the online clinic and conduct an online video or chat with one of the 150 physicians who participate in the Online Care program about their symptoms. According to HMSA, thousands of patients have registered for the program; members pay $10 for a 10-minute session, and nonmembers pay $45.

The technology used for this program was created by American Well, and other insurance companies like Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota are establishing simliar programs. American Well has recently partnered with OptumHealth, which “will take Online Care nationwide to all consumers, regardless of insurance provider.”

A similar service is MDLiveCare, with more than 100,000 members “who pay a flat $35 per online visit” to talk with physicians in the network.

Kaiser Permanente allows its members to e-mail doctors, review lab tests, make appointments, and refill prescriptions online.

SwiftMD and Hello Health, two New York-based companies, also provide online services to their members.

According to a recent survey, half of those surveyed said “they would be interested in using the Internet not only as an information source but to receive healthcare directly.”

Jay Sanders, president emeritus of the American Telemedicine Association, said, “Given the economic crisis we’re in, we’re dramatically reducing costs.”