By: Angela Gonzales | 02/10/2012
HealthNation is expanding its telemedicine services to the small-business community, offering 24/7 access to doctors and support staff. The Scottsdale company joins a growing number of medical providers offering on-demand services for patients who don't have time to wait in an emergency room.
It's no secret that small businesses have had a tough time providing health coverage for their workers, said Dr. Tami Romano, an advisory board member of HealthÂNation and a former ER physician. "We are now targeting companies with 25 employees or less that oftentimes don't offer benefits," she said. "It gives them an opportunity to give their employees something, so it adds value to them. It helps them retain good employees."
Providing health insurance also helps improve productivity, she said. "Now if an employee gets sick, instead of spreading it around the office, they can use our service within hours and be back at work, rather than missing time at work," she said.
This new shared benefit would require an employee to pay a monthly fee for access to the services, she said. Monthly fees are $18 for an individual or $27 for a family, plus a $20 co-payment when they consult with a physician. Under the plan, employees have access to webcam consultations, email correspondence, online medical record-keeping, an online wellness program and a prescriptions savings card. "With all the technology we have, we are now able to leverage that," she said.
Dr. John Shufeldt, an ER physician who founded Scottsdale-based MeMD LLC, coined the term "on-demand medicine" to describe the trend of leveraging the use of online technology. "It's a true consumer model," he said. "You get it when you need it. ... There are many things that can be treated very well virtually." Shufeldt foresees "consumer-centric price transparency," with a pay-as-you-go theme.
Dr. Alan Roga, CEO of Scottsdale-based Stat Doctors, said on-demand medicine isn't putting a dent in ER visits. There were 123.8 million emergency room visits across the nation in 2008, the most recent numbers available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "That's a direct correlation to an eroding primary care network," Roga said. "People don't have anywhere else to go." On-demand medicine is a natural evolution for providing care to patients who don't have access to a primary care physician, Roga said. "We've got to figure out a way ... to increase our reach and accessibility," he said.
HealthNation: Provides access to a physician by webcam, phone and email for a monthly fee, plus a $20 co-pay
MeMD LLC: Provides access to a physician by webcam, charging $39.95 per visit with no monthly fee
Stat Doctors: Provides access to doctors by webcam or telephone for a $50 fee, in addition to a monthly fee