MeMD Aims to Lower Employers’ On-Demand Healthcare Costs

Many people who visit the emergency room need something less urgent and even simple: advice, direction, an antibiotic or refill. John Shufeldt, M.D., has seen this in practicing emergency medicine and over the course of his 19 years as owner of urgent care centers.

A visit for such needs can be unnecessarily disruptive to a workday. Shufeldt founded MeMD to address the healthcare service needs of many employers - particularly small-business owners - face.

MeMD is a HIPAA-compliant patient portal that allows patients access to a physician who can treat them virtually and, when such healthcare is indicated, direct them to the appropriate level of care. Patients can access the service at any hour every day of the year. In-person attention to which they may be referred is available from contracted urgent care centers and individual providers in 30 states.

Employers save healthcare costs by giving employees the option to talk with a physician online anytime from any location, and can offer to share the expense of the consult at whatever percentage would best encourage use. Companies with employees who travel can offer the service to be used from any location in the United States.

Aimed especially at businesses of 50-500 employees, MeMD launched in May 2011 and has treated 5,000 patients over the course of its first year. "This is where I believe much of healthcare is going," says Shufeldt, citing shortages of primary care providers, a population that has grown up in an Internet world, and increasing demand for transparent, consumer-focused healthcare as factors that have led to this form of physician-patient interaction. - RaeAnne Marsh