Telemedicine as a technology is advancing so rapidly that it seems like something you might have seen on Star Trek.
Telemedicine as policy has become an integral part of the law as $27 billion was earmarked for health care information technology as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus plan.
But telemedicine as a successful practice or an everyday tool for physicians and patients has remained a mystery. Until now.
Physicians will ask: How do I squeeze telemedicine in between my daily 35 – 40 patient visits, phone calls, hospital rounds, and insurance b.s.? How can I make money at this? It looks really cool, but, in the end, it’s just a high tech version of a patient calling after hours to avoid a co-pay. Can telemedicine really succeed?
Rapid Remedy, based in Pennsylvania, has designed a business model that allows all active participants – including doctors, patients, dependents, and employers — to benefit from telemedicine.
While most telemedicine models promote the technology as the reason to use the service, John Lawlor, Managing Partner for Rapid Remedy, gives away the secret: “It’s all about access.”
Rapid Remedy is reaching out to small, medium and large companies “as a convenient access to Board Certified licensed family practitioners,” said Mr. Lawlor. Companies will use this service as an employee benefit to provide workers and their families with efficient access to family docs for minor illnesses and health advice.
Traditional telemedicine services often use physicians who simultaneously run their own practice and call back the patient, via video conferencing, as their schedule permits. That’s a huge flaw in the system. The technology provides for instant access, therefore, doctors need to be immediately available to the user on the other end – the patient.
Rapid Remedy employs its own physician network to be available whenever the patient calls during regular office hours (9AM – 5PM). “Our physician network provides video conferencing evaluations from the controlled environment of our practice sites not from their offices or homes,” said Mr. Lawlor. Having the docs on-site allows each patient videoconference to commence within two minutes.
The Rapid Remedy physician network includes an expanding group of board certified primary care physicians, some who continue to practice outside of Rapid Remedy and others who may seek alternatives to traditional office or hospital work. “We are focused on building a national network of board certified family physicians who provide videoconference evaluations from our practice sites,” said Mr. Lawlor.
Given that 30+ million currently uninsured people will be added to patient rolls thanks to health reform, Rapid Remedy provides an answer to potential physician shortages. “Our physician network has already admitted they will practice longer than expected — foregoing retirement for several years due to the ease of practicing with Rapid Remedy,” explained Mr. Lawlor.
In fact, one of the doctors in the Rapid Remedy physician network is the CEO’s brother, Dr. Robert Lawlor – a board certified family practitioner with a large, successful practice based in Devon, PA and over 30 years of experience. For Dr. Lawlor, Rapid Remedy offers a big advantage over traditional telemedicine models: “I am being paid to provide a service that usually does not get paid,” he said.
There are only 12 states that mandate reimbursement for telemedicine including California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. Each state determines its own guidelines for reimbursement. Certain states will supplement Medicaid reimbursement, like Maine, while others, such as New Hampshire, will only qualify telemedicine in selected pilot programs.
Rapid Remedy’s model is advantageous to the participating physician, as the company does not rely on public funding or reimbursement to compensate its doctors. “This model also benefits the patient as they have no co-pay, co-insurances or deductibles,” according to Mr. Lawlor.
The participating businesses also receive several benefits. “Clients with self-funded insurance plans can save up to 50% on their primary care,” says Mr. Lawlor. “In addition, it’s hard to put a dollar value on providing your employees the convenient access to a quality doctor right from their home or workplace.”
Many primary care office visits can be handled through telemedicine. Dr. Robert Pizzaketti — a board certified family physician with a large, successful practice in York, PA, and part of the Rapid Remedy physician network — says “common problems are URI’s, skin conditions, musculoskeletal injuries, and conditions requiring medical advice.” A visit with a Rapid Remedy physician is a seamless experience and, as Dr. Pizzaketti proudly announces, “patients are usually very appreciative.”
David Schlager, Managing Partner with Rapid Remedy, walks us through the typical visit: The patient logs on to the Rapid Remedy website –through a home computer with webcam or at an employer-based health station. “The patient is met online via video conference by the Rapid Remedy receptionist who confirms their eligibility and chief complaint, and then transfers the patient to the physician. The physician — via videoconference with the patient — conducts the evaluation, including the diagnosis, prescriptions, and treatment plan. The patient selects whether they or their local primary care Provider wants a consult letter of the videoconference. The patient visit ends.”
After the conference with the patient, the physician is able to create medication prescriptions and electronically forward these prescriptions to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice. The Rapid Remedy telemedicine system will be a tremendous compliment to the traditional office visit. Dr. Lawlor states “there are advantages to the patient in terms of saving time and cost.”
Research firm Pike & Fischer predicts that annual revenues for telemedicine services will exceed $3 billion by 2013. Several Fortune 500 companies – including UnitedHealth, Intel, Verizon, Samsung, and more – are developing products to compete in the marketplace. Rapid Remedy is ready to go.
Mr. Lawlor’s goal is to “establish videoconference primary care telemedicine as a common acceptable delivery model for 50% of the care that is currently provided in the primary care physician office.” The company is targeting various corporations, large and small, that want to offer their employees an added benefit to their current insurance plan, which may become a greater expense as health reform mandates take effect. Rapid Remedy will allow those corporations to save on costs while providing a quality medical experience for patients and physicians.