“The doctor will see you now,” and by now, that often means at least an hour from the time you set foot into your physician’s office. The red tape of gaining access to health care can seem like a daunting task for many people. Not only are wait times long, but the amount of face-to-face time that a person gets with a doctor often averages less than 20 minutes. Technology experts and physicans around the country are trying to implement a better way to manage their time and health care costs for patient visits.
Earlier this month, celebrity doctor and emergency physician, Dr. Travis Stork, announced that he was going to be a partner at MDLIVE, which is an interactive and web-based doctor’s office. The idea of a virtual physician could potentially change the face of medicine completely — for the better, Dr. Stork believes.
MDLIVE is a cloud-based virtual office, which allows members to gain access to board-certified physicians anytime, day or night, for 365 days a year. According to a service representative for the website, the service is only available for individuals whose employers are subscribed to it, and as of now individual plans are not offered. Similar to regular health insurance, the employer pays a portion of the cost and then the rest is picked up by the employee.
In a phone interview with Medical Daily, Randy Parker, the CEO of MDLIVE, and Dr. Stork discussed how telemedicine and telehealth will enhance the way that medicine is practiced.
“Our service allows customers to get access to the provider [board-certified physician] whenever they need it so that the doctors can assess whether telehealth is appropriate or not,” Dr. Stork said. "If not, they will refer the patient to an actual physician."
There is some apprehension as to how reliable and successful a virtual doctor’s office could be. “It’s not going to replace the hands-on physician visit. It’s not going to replace the emergency department… It’s going to offer another avenue of access to affordable quality care,” said Dr. Stork.
Parker said that his objective is to make affordable health care easier to access. "The goal is to make this the gold-standard — truly quality care and treating what is appropriate,” he said.
A person is able to connect 24/7 via telephone, video conference, or e-mail to the correct physician. Primary care doctors, emergency physicians, pediatricians, and therapist are available. They treat common conditions like acne, allergies, cold and flu, sore throat, urinary tract infections, rashes, and many other minor issues.
Each year, there are approximately 129.8 million visits to the emergency room, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and only 13.3 percent of those visits require hospital admission and 25.1 percent of those patients are seen for fewer than 15 minutes (which could still cost thousands of dollars).
“One of the most important things for me is making sure that the patients get the best quality of care that they can in the right arena, [MDLIVE's] not going to replace the hands-on physician visit,” said Dr. Stork.
With the Affordable Care Act and all of the legislation soon to be implemented under the new health care laws, access and affordability are concerns for many Americans, employers, and employees. Currently, 70 percent of doctors believe that long wait times will plague emergency rooms. A full 83 percent of physicians foresee increased wait times for primary care appointments, according to a report by Forbes. With a website like MDLIVE, however, the wait lines would be shorter, and conditions or injuries that actually warrant an in-person physician visit could be better managed.
“[MDLIVE] is focusing its efforts on being effective with the lowest cost of quality care,” Parker said. “We have always believed that medicine is local, and our model is to partner with as many major health systems across the county."
MDLIVE is currently connected with 10 health systems, including Sentara Health System in North Carolina and Trinity Health System in Michigan.
Founded in 2006, the company currently has two million members with over 2,000 practitioners in 49 states.