Telemedicine breaks through on ABC News

One of the interesting things I’ve been able to watch since I wrote my book The Self-Pay Patient: Affordable Healthcare Choices in the Age of Obamacare and launched this blog has been growing interest by the media in alternatives to the third-party payer system in favor of direct payment for medical care. I take this as a sign that there is growing interest in the country regarding ways that individuals can take back control of their health care from bureaucratic medicine, and save money while getting better access to care at the same time.

The most recent installment is a recent story on ABC News, featuring one of my favorite self-pay advocates Michelle Katz. The story is about telemedicine, a topic I’ve covered here several times before. Here are some key excerpts from the story.

Save Money, Time by Bringing the Doctor to You With Telemedicine

With three growing boys, the Alspaughs of Dayton, Ohio, say their home away from home is unfortunately often the doctor’s office.

“We really do have a stack of medical bills and it overwhelms us,” said Rachel Alspaugh.

…it costs the family $90 a visit. The price goes up to $100 each time mom or dad goes.

“We’re just wondering, ‘Is there a better way?’” Philip Alspaugh asked.

According to health care consumer advocate Michelle Katz, there is: telemedicine, a brand-new, high-tech medical service.

For $40 to $50 a use — about half the cost of the average doctor’s visit — doctors perform virtual medical exams either online or over the telephone. They even write prescriptions..

Telemedicine is used to treat minor ailments like cold symptoms, which account for nearly a quarter of office visits to the primary care doctor.

“We’ve got a very affordable alternative to an emergency room for non-emergent care,” said Dr. Tim Howard, a telemedicine doctor…

“The hours of telemedicine are anytime. Literally 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Chuck Hockett, vice president of business development for telemedicine service Connect2Docs. “They’re very qualified physicians. The average is between 15-17 years of practice before those physicians are vetted to be on the service. There’s an audio transcript of everything that a patient does when they’re talking to a doctor so if they have a question about it and want to go speak to another doctor, they’ve got an audio and a written copy of that.”

Katz estimated that the Alspaughs could save more than $2,600 this year.

Telemedicine isn’t for everything of course – as the story notes, it’s best for minor ailments, including colds, allergies, pink eye, poison ivy, and other things that can be easily diagnosed and then treated by the doctor’s recommendation, which will often include a prescription.

The article mentions Connect2Docs*, one of the many telemedicine firms that offer their services to the public. Others include 24/7DocRx*, Consult A Doctor, American Well, and Call MD, all of which I believe I’ve mentioned in past reports on telemedicine.

Just recently someone brought to my attention a new telemedicine firm, called CADR Plus. Like most telemedicine operations these days, they offer a bundle of services besides just the ability to get a doctor on the phone. Some of the items included in the bundle are fairly typical for telemedicine, including a prescription drug discount card and medical bill mediation and negotiation.

But a few of the items seem unique, and I think could provide tremendous value. What follows is taken from the CADR Plus web site, describing a few of these unique offerings.

Telephone Consultations

Today’s hectic lifestyles create stress, depression, anxiety and other personal issues for many people. According to recent studies, over 75% of all doctors office visits originate from stress related factors. Aetna Resources For LivingSM helps you handle life’s challenges.

Resources for Living’s telephone consultation provides immediate, customized help. With Resources For Living’s telephone consultations, you can speak with a Master’s-level clinician any time — 365 days per year — from the comfort and privacy of home or anywhere else you choose…

Legal Advisors

More and more, average, everyday Americans like yourself are finding themselves in need of legal assistance… With our legal services, you get access to our network of network attorneys, who specialize in whatever legal service you need…

Your legal assistance benefit provides one (1) initial 30-minute office or telephone consultation per separate legal matter with a network attorney — at no cost. If additional assistance is necessary, you will receive a 25 percent reduction in the attorney’s normal hourly rate.

Legal Services Can Help With:

Family or domestic law — contested divorce, contested child support, contested spousal support, domestic violence, custody issues

General — civil, real estate matters, bankruptcy, landlord/tenant issues, collection, contractual disputes Criminal — criminal charges, juvenile matters, DUI

Parents — probate, Social Security, Medicare

Elder law and estate planning — wills (preparation and review), trusts, probate, Social Security, Medicare

Motor vehicle — traffic tickets, driver’s license matters, collection/personal injury

Financial Advisors

Finally, you can find the answers you need for your money matters. One toll-free call puts you in touch with a financial consultant ready to help you with a wide range of issues. Whether it’s about budgeting and debt management, or tax matters and retirement planning, you have access to the resources you need.

ID Theft & Fraud Resolution

Getting your identity stolen or being a victim of fraud in any way can be an extremely frustrating and helpless experience… With our ID Theft and Fraud Resolution program, you get access to the help you need to get back on your feet and reclaim what’s rightfully yours!

Our comprehensive program has you covered from multiple angles, providing legal, financial, and ID theft resolution services. You have one point of contact for all your ID theft resolution needs. Our services can save you thousands of dollars in legal expenses and countless hours of your valuable time.

Online Worklife Resources

People face the challenge of balancing their professional and family lives everyday, and they need answers fast. My Life Values provides those answers through its web enabled member assistance and worklife platform. Beyond just helping to locate child care, our website offers you easy, online access to a proprietary database of over one million worklife providers, useful and compelling research and information on health and wellness, robust concierge resources and discounts at a network of national vendors…

Obviously some of the services in the package go well beyond health care, although as the first item notes, stress is in and of itself a health issue, and I can see how many of these services could help people through stressful times.

But even with all of these add-ons, the core of CADR is still getting medical care delivered through the phone or online. CADR does patient consultations over the phone as well as through video connections, and it looks like they have apps for the iPhone and Android phones as well.

The growth of telemedicine is just one of many growing industries that benefit self-pay patients, and it is nice to see the mainstream media featuring it and letting people know that there are affordable options for people who can’t afford or don’t want to pay for a visit to the doctor to treat minor ailments. I’ve got a collection of stories from happy telemedicine customers that I’ll try to post soon, and if any of my readers have any experiences they’d like to share as well (good or bad), please send them to me!

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3 Responses to Telemedicine breaks through on ABC News

  1. Thad says:

    I think you are correct about a growing awareness of the problems caused by third-party payers. Great post.

  2. Pingback: Free Market Healthcare Gaining Traction | Free Market Medical Association

  3. Pingback: 048: Helping Self-Pay Patients find Medical Options they can afford with Sean Parnell

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