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Medical Visits by Phone, Computer or Tablet Screen Could be Healthcare Wave of the Future


The spread of technology is about to start changing medical care more rapidly…and in the process, possibly save patients and the healthcare system money. One local insurer will be rolling out Tele-medicine for the families it covers this coming year.

Say you have a health condition that’s urgent…but not serious.  A doctor’s visit can take time to schedule…so many go to urgent care or an emergency room.  But Excellus Telemedicine Director Marya Vande-Doyle shares a different experience through a service called M-D-Live with her son.

“He developed poison ivy, he gets an extreme reaction to it and it was spreading to his eye.  So I said, ‘call M-D Live.’  My husband uploaded photographs of the poison ivy, received a text message back that our prescription would be filled at the local Rite Aid, and within 45 minutes my son had been treated.”

More than two million ER visits in New York last year were for non-serious conditions, for which telemedicine might have treated patients more quickly and less costly, including prescriptions where necessary.

Excellus tried telemedicine with its employees this year.  77-percent said they had an excellent or very good experience with it.  Doctors have the time scheduled for the phone or video sessions…wait time is generally five minutes to an hour.  Doctor Richard Lockwood says about a third of all E-R visits in New York are for non-serious sinus, joint or abdominal problems, nausea, or bumps and bruises  

“Out of those, approximately 90% really could be avoidable visits to the E.R.  The best care is given by the physician who knows you best, but in our rapidly changing world, face-to-face visits aren’t always possible.  So telemedicine is an alternative that’s gaining rapid popularity across the country.”

For those conditions that can be treated by telemedicine, over phone, computer or tablet or smartphone screen, costs to insurance and for out-of-pocket for consumers, can be much less.

Of course avoiding the E-R or urgent care saves money for both the insurer and the patient – especially those with high-deductibles.  Excellus is rolling out telemedicine through M-D Live for its customers starting next year.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.