KentuckyOne Health's Plan for Publicly Available Telemedicine

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Starting Nov. 1, KentuckyOne Health will begin offering online physician consultations to all Kentucky residents.

The Louisville, Ky.-based system's new program, KentuckyOne Anywhere Care, will provide on-demand virtual urgent care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over the phone or a two-way webcam.

"It's for those simple, lower-acuity needs that would otherwise have resulted in a urgent care visit or a trip to the emergency department," says Travis Burgett, director of strategy at KentuckyOne Health.

Potential patients will call a toll-free number for an intake assessment by a patient service representative and then be contacted by a medical provider within 30 minutes if they're eligible to participate in the program. Those not accepted will include patients exhibiting "red flags" signaling the necessity for emergent care. "We'll be on the lookout to make sure patients don't really need to visit the emergency room," says Mr. Burgett, to ensure the care provided is both cost-effective and appropriate.

Once connected, the provider will be able to assess the patient and prescribe medications, recommend over-the-counter medications, suggest home care options and recommend follow-up treatment. The service will cost $35 per visit and patients can submit their receipt to their insurance company to count towards their deductible, and a health savings or flexible spending account can be used to foot the bill.

KentuckyOne Health will be among the first systems in the country to offer a telemedicine service directly to the public. "Typically, this kind of service would only be provided by an insurer or an employer for a specific population," says Mr. Burgett.

A similar program began at KentuckyOne's sister system, Franciscan Health System based in Tacoma, Wash., as a service first for employees than for a defined patient subset. The program was a success: According to a Franciscan spokesman, the program facilitated 575 deliveries of service to employees and resulted in 276 avoided ED visits and a 92 percent patient satisfaction rating. In July 2012, Franciscan's program was expanded to provide after-hours care to primary care clinic patients, where the patient approval rating hit 98 percent.

Last week, Franciscan opened the program up to all residents within Franciscan's service area, aiming to extend the high satisfaction rates, and cost savings, to a larger population.  

Mr. Burgett sees this telemedicine service as not only in alignment with KentuckyOne's mission to provide high-quality care in a convenient and cost-effective setting, but also is aligned with the current trajectory of the healthcare industry. "Right now, e-visits make up less than 1 percent of the total number of physician visits. By 2020, that figure could be as high as 10 percent," he says, depending on how quickly services like Anywhere Care are adopted throughout the country.

"The healthcare industry is going to have to find a way to offer greater access [to care] and find ways to innovate to deliver care in lower-cost settings," says Mr. Burgett. "This initiative is a good example of just that."

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