‘We’re hoping to bend the cost curve and provide better access to care’
DALLAS – Methodist Family Health Centers has treated more than 100 patients online since it launched a new virtual diagnosis and treatment service less than a month ago.
“Technology is the way of the future for health care,” said Ryan Alcantar, director of health care transformation at Methodist Family Health Centers, which is part of Methodist Medical Group and an affiliate of Methodist Health System. “We want to offer as many ways as possible for patients to receive care.”
Powered by Zipnosis, a provider of virtual care services for health systems, Methodist NOW connects patients to care through a web-based service seven days a week using an asynchronous store-and-forward system. Patients enter the website and start a visit immediately through a series of questions. The patient’s responses are sent to a physician who reviews the information then notifies the patient of a treatment plan and, if necessary, submits a prescription to a pharmacy. The median visit time has been under 15 minutes, said Alcantar.
Some patient symptoms may require a step-up to a virtual chat with a physician, or those with more urgent symptoms may require a referral to an office or emergency room.
The fee for a Methodist NOW virtual visit is $40. Alcantar said most health insurers do not yet cover store-and-forward health care, so the cost of the visit allows price transparency and helps the patient to make an informed decision about their care.
“We’re hoping to bend the cost curve and provide better access to care,” he said.
The health system plans to grow the virtual care program and expand services in the future to include post-operative and transitional care, as well as chronic disease management. It is also looking at offering a subscription service, which would offer unlimited access for a small monthly fee.
“We have to meet patients where they are,” said Alcantar. “We have to provide care to more patients with fewer physicians at a lower cost—technology will be the way to do that.”