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6/25/2014
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Verizon Virtual Visits Enters Telehealth Market

Verizon launches telehealth service to insurers, employers, and health services.

Healthcare Social Networks: New Choices For Doctors, Patients
Healthcare Social Networks: New Choices For Doctors, Patients
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Verizon on Wednesday unveiled Verizon Virtual Visits, a mobile-based technology that combines several existing Verizon technologies with a provider network to give consumers easy and secure access to remote care.

The company is targeting the telehealth offering -- available via smartphone, tablet, or computer -- at multiple groups, including health systems, insurers, and health plans that can white-label the service or keep the Verizon Virtual Visits moniker, says Julie Kling, director of product management for Mobile Health Solutions at Verizon Wireless. Self-insured employers can provide the service to employees to reduce emergency room expenses and healthcare costs, and improve workers' access to convenient care, she tells us. Retailers, too, have expressed interest in Virtual Visits, Kling adds. And consumers themselves increasingly want telehealth services.

"Now everyone is using their phone to learn about their health and find out where to get service and even connect and engage with good doctors now and get the care we need. It's really about convenience and ease of use."

When patients register at Virtual Visits via a smartphone app (operating across 3G or 4G) or web portal, Verizon verifies eligibility and co-pay information, and presents patients' self-reported histories, symptoms, medication allergies, and other information, and collects the co-pay at intake. The clinician then initiates a video chat and can send an e-prescription via SureScripts to patients' preferred pharmacies, if warranted and allowed by local law. Following the consultation, members may review a detailed summary, which they can share with their primary care physician.

Data is encrypted during the online visit, as well as when it's stored in Verizon's HIPAA-enabled cloud, the company says. Clinicians must use two-factor authentication when logging on for patient consultations.

Medical services are provided through a relationship Verizon forged with a third-party provider network, which the company declines to name. Virtual Visits matches patients to the next available participating clinician in their state. Organizations such as health systems also can use their own healthcare professionals or use a hybrid mix that combines a blend of internal clinicians augmented by external clinicians for after-hours support, says Kling.

"Some may want more nurse practitioners; some may want more physicians," Kling says of Virtual Visits' contracts with payers. "Verizon did its own market research on that. Customers and consumers are fine with both."

Typical visits take 30 minutes and can occur almost anywhere, according to Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

Telehealth solutions could reduce the emergency room burden by providing consumers with alternatives for worrisome but non-emergency options. Currently, 62 million Americans have no access to a primary care physician, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers. In a 2011 Centers for Disease Control study, about 80% of adults that visited an ER did so because they lacked access to other providers, the Rand Corporation reported in "The Evolving Role of Emergency Departments in the United States."

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Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/27/2014 | 4:02:43 PM
Re: Would love to learn more
There are quite a few services out there that provide telehealth services. Some work directly with payers such as insurance companies or employers. Some go directly to consumers: In those cases, you may pay a per-visit fee (which might be covered by insurance) and connect via phone or videoconference. Some work in more of a vacuum, but i believe most have some way of sharing details of your consultation with your primary care physician. Having used one several times, they are a great way to get medical advice when your doctor's office or clinics are closed or booked up, or when you know exactly what you have -- flu, pink eye, etc. -- and don't have time (or the energy) to leave home or office. Most do not prescribe narcotics or other oft-abused medications, but will e-prescribe many other medications such as antibiotics, cough syrups, etc.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
6/26/2014 | 2:25:14 PM
Re: Would love to learn more
I love hearing about new services like this!  Not only will it help alleviate a lot of the burden on emergency healthcare services, but it will make healthcare more accessible to remote areas and to folks who may not be able to get to their healthcare practitioner.
cathmoore
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cathmoore,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2014 | 10:28:58 AM
Re: Would love to learn more
Thanks so much, Alison. Much appreciated!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/26/2014 | 9:32:28 AM
Re: Would love to learn more
The service is available now, @cathmoore, and it's available to non-Verizon customers as well as existing Verizon customers. I have just emailed my Verizon contacting, asking someone to respond directly to your questions. As far as I understand, pricing is up to the discretion of Verizon's customer -- the healthcare system, insurer, or employer that contracts with Verizon to provide the service to consumers. That, however, is my understanding, not the 'official' word. 

As to the doctor or nurse practioner, they will be based in your state (that's because of current laws, practice/medical, and insurance requirements). Verizon's literature says it will be the next available clinician in your state who will treat you via the videoconference connection.
cathmoore
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cathmoore,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2014 | 8:59:28 AM
Would love to learn more
Do you know if this service is available only to Verizon customers or all consumers? Also - when is this available, what does it cost for a visit, and who is the doctor that I will see? Very interesting info here and curious to learn more.
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