Is there a doctor in the house? If not, Verizon can arrange a virtual visit

US telco Verizon has launched a new mobile health service that allows patients with acute conditions to see their doctors or clinicians via smartphone, tablet or computer. Verizon Virtual Visits, says the telco, provides an easy, convenient and cost-effective way for patients to be seen remotely by a clinician for a cold, flu, sore throat or similar conditions via video on their mobile device or PC.

According to the US National Association of Community Health Centers, emergency room spending for non-urgent care in the country is estimated to be $4.4 billion this year. Verizon hopes to help reduce this figure with its enterprise-class platform.

It also enables patients, who may not otherwise have convenient and timely access to care, see a doctor. The Health Affairs Journal reports that as many as 62 million Americans have difficulty accessing primary and preventative care, with 27 days as the average time for a new patient to schedule an appointment.

“We are seeing a shift in how care is delivered in the US,” said Rich Black, VP of Verizon's healthcare practice. “With Verizon Virtual Visits, patients and providers alike can benefit from the use of technology to provide medical care via an enterprise-class technology solution developed with the security, performance and reliability essential to healthcare delivery.”

Patients can connect online with a clinician through a secure app on their smartphone or tablet, or via a web portal. Once logged in, patients are taken through a set of health-related questions followed by a discussion with a clinician, who evaluates the patient's condition and provides an appropriate care plan. Clinicians also can use the platform to electronically send a prescription to the pharmacy of the patient's choosing, where legally permitted.

Data shared between the clinician and the patient is encrypted during the online visit, as well as afterward when the data is stored in Verizon's HIPAA-enabled Cloud. Clinicians are required to use two-factor authentication when logging in to see patients.

“We believe our latest mobile health offering can go a long way to enable a more efficient and effective US healthcare system,” added Black. He said that US health systems can benefit from reducing the burden on clinical staff by seeing patients remotely, while health plans can help satisfy members, particularly younger people, who are increasingly demanding more convenient and less costly options for care.

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