Insurer Backs Web-Based Medical Service

Cigna HealthCare and RelayHealth offer a Web-based system to schedule appointments, view lab results, and get prescription refills.
Cigna HealthCare is trying to use the Internet to build closer ties to doctors and patients. Later this year, the insurer will test a Web-based system that will let customers schedule doctor appointments, view laboratory results, and receive prescription refills and renewals online.

The system, known as Physician webVisits, is a Microsoft ASP .Net Web application running on Microsoft's Internet Information Server that lets customers research information on doctors, prescriptions, treatment costs, and 145 nonurgent medical symptoms. In addition, the application allows health plan members to report any symptoms to their doctors by E-mail.

"This extends our relationship with the doctor and patient," says Joseph Mondy, communications director for Cigna, which has $44.8 billion in assets. "A patient will be able to log on and enter in any symptoms they are experiencing, and the doctor will respond within eight hours."

Kick The Tires

Cigna HealthCare and RelayHealth teamed up in January, and Cigna is in the process of implementing the service. Because Cigna will be referring patients to RelayHealth's Web site, the IT teams have had to extend the security features, using Microsoft BizTalk Server 2004 and BizTalk Accelerators for compliance with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Doc, it hurts when I hit 'return.'

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"Doc, it hurts when I hit 'return.'"
"Cigna's auditors gave us great insight into the requirements that are demanded by a leading health care company," says Briana Pompei, communications director at RelayHealth. "We learned a lot from the process."

Cigna and RelayHealth are expected to deploy the application in July, pilot testing it on Cigna HealthCare members in California who are employed by networking vendor Cisco Systems. These members will have access to the system through a single sign-on to the site. Cigna HealthCare will expand availability of Physician webVisits to other health plans in California, Arizona, Florida, and the tri-state New York metropolitan area in 2007.