Stanford Hospital Offers Doctor Visits Via Video

Patients who don't need in-person care can schedule video visits through the hospital website and "meet" with the doctor using a computer equipped with a webcam.

David F Carr, Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

September 19, 2013

4 Min Read

Remote Patient Monitoring: 9 Promising Technologies
Remote Patient Monitoring: 9 Promising Technologies (click image for larger view)

Video doctors' visits are starting to become a routine part of the care offered by the Stanford Hospital & Clinics, the healthcare system affiliated with Stanford University's medical school.

Patients can schedule video visits through the hospital website, in much the same way as they would schedule a traditional visit and provide information about their symptoms in advance of the visit through the scheduling application. At the appointed time, they meet with the doctor in a Web-based videoconference from a home or workplace computer equipped with a webcam.

"This has been integrated into our primary-care processes as of the last week," CIO Pravene Nath, M.D., said in an interview.

Video visits can be perfectly appropriate for several types of non-critical visits and follow-ups where the camera can capture important details of the patient's condition while allowing a "face to face" consultation between doctor and patient.

"One of our first patients had an eye condition, where the patient needed to look into the camera," Nath said. There are other conditions such as treatment of a skin rash. "These are cases where a quick visual is all that's needed, followed by a quick interaction of the patient talking with the doctor," he said.

[ Remote medical care is on the rise. Read Miami Children's Hospital Prepares For Telemedicine Growth. ]

The eCare video visits service is being offered first to the employees of self-insured firms who contract with the hospital. That avoids questions about reimbursement for remote patient care, because those firms have a broad interest in the wellness of their employees. Still, Stanford's intent is to make the option available to everyone. "We're considering this an investment, so we're not waiting to solve every billing problem before we go forward," Nath said. A staged rollout will continue over the next three to six months, he said.

A video demo of the service (see below) was shown at the Epic user conference this week because it takes advantage of Epic's software for video consultations and integrates with the patient's electronic health record. Nath's IT team did additional development to create a consistent user experience for patients and integrate the process of scheduling and keeping the appointments into the physician's workflow. In addition, the service has been integrated with third-party identity verification services to make sure the person on the other end of the videoconference connection is who they say they are.

Stanford eCare Video Visits

Stanford Hospital had conducted an earlier video care test on a smaller scale, where dermatology appointments could be conducted remotely from a clinic at an employer's place of business. However, this is the first time the service has been offered on a routine basis as a consumer service capable of operating on a much larger scale, Nath said. The experience so far has been that these visits produce "unbelievably high satisfaction" because patients can keep the appointments without taking so much time away from work, he said.

The Stanford eCare video visits are one of several virtual healthcare services the hospital is developing. Other scenarios are secure messaging between doctor and patient or submitting a still photo rather than conducting a live videoconference.

In addition to assigning doctors specifically to a virtual care team, the hospital has some specialists who will devote a portion of their day to remote care.

Maybe because the hospital is in the heart of Silicon Valley, the response from physicians has been positive, Nath said. "They feel like this is the sort of thing we ought to be doing at Stanford." It helps that the video appointments are being integrated into the doctor's schedule just like regular appointments, rather than being something extra tacked onto their workload, he said. Still, each physician will need to develop his or her own comfort level with the technology and decide when it is appropriate, he said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr or Google+. His book Social Collaboration For Dummies is scheduled for release in October 2013.

About the Author(s)

David F Carr

Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and was the social business track chair for UBM's E2 conference in 2012 and 2013. He is a frequent speaker and panel moderator at industry events. David is a former Technology Editor of Baseline Magazine and Internet World magazine and has freelanced for publications including CIO Magazine, CIO Insight, and Defense Systems. He has also worked as a web consultant and is the author of several WordPress plugins, including Facebook Tab Manager and RSVPMaker. David works from a home office in Coral Springs, Florida. Contact him at [email protected]and follow him at @davidfcarr.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights