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Return of the House Call

Published on 30th January 2018

A monotonous tick of the second hand slices through the sterile silence suffocating the waiting room. Only the muffled page-flipping of ancient health magazines can be heard as Jen taps her foot, impatiently waiting for her name to be called by the nurse. After taking the afternoon off from work, commuting 25 miles to the nearest clinic, and arranging for a sitter to pick up her youngest after school, the mom of two has already invested excessive sums of time, money, and hassle into a seemingly simple doctor visit for her seasonal flu.

For a society that prioritizes convenience and affordability, it's no wonder that a better solution already exists for regular people like Jen. In an advanced and continually-modernizing world where smart phones dominate and habitation on Mars appears to be a not-too-distant possibility, "virtual care" has surfaced as the technological accommodation to both cost and ease. Known also as "telemedicine" or “telehealth,” virtual care is used to describe the new virtual methods of communication and consultation between medical practitioners and their patients. Through video calls and online chat platforms, clients can now receive care from the comfort of their living room sofas.

Although virtual care has become a quicker, more convenient option for people all across the United States, it has been especially beneficial to those who reside in rural areas and have greater difficulty finding access to quality medical care. Connections to specialists can be made in minutes rather than a never-ending hopscotch of referrals and delays.

Throughout virtual care's ascent to popularity over the past decade, numerous national providers have emerged at its forefront--pioneers to the virtual medicine game committed to expanding its capabilities to full potential. MD Live, Doctor on Demand, and Teladoc are a few of the most popular, but there are also providers that operate regionally, such as Care My Way--a service offered through the Marshfield Clinic Health System.

But what exactly makes one virtual care provider favorable to another? Are there benefits to choosing a local service like Care My Way over a reputable national brand? And are any significant differences present between the larger, established names to warrant one the better choice?

Apart from minor differences, when it comes to national virtual care, most providers are fairly comparable. Regardless of which one an individual chooses, he or she will be able to afford it without insurance.

Regional telehealth, on the other hand, can offer the added benefit of potential face-to-face consultation since the practitioners come from a select, local pool of nurse practitioners. With Care My Way, for example, Marshfield’s Director of Telehealth and Virtual Care Chris Meyer explained that the nurse practitioners are chosen from a directory of Marshfield Clinic nurse practitioners, which may ultimately support virtual interactions with the promise and security of a tangible locale to touch base. In addition, CMW gives practitioners full access to their patients’ medical records—a way to better ensure care continuity across an individual’s consultations.

Since its inception in 2013, the Care My Way model has transformed immensely, converting from a provider that solely utilized telephone services to one that now thrives on its modes of virtual consultation.

According to Marshfield Clinic’s Director of Care Management and Value Based Care Becky Birchmeier, Care My Way has consequently become an extremely helpful tool for patients in both lowering cost and augmenting convenience. At only 40 dollars per consultation, patients can receive diagnoses and treatment without straining their checkbook or Tetris-like schedule. While CMW services are primarily only intended to address minor or non-emergency issues--such as the flu, strep throat, and sinus infections--they significantly decrease the hours factored into an in-person consultation.

While Care My Way and other telemedicine providers have proven to be the solution for those who value time and savings, Meyer points out that some restrictions still exist.

“There is a trade-off,” Meyer said, “because what can and can’t be diagnosed is limited.”

Although virtual care was never intended to fully replace in-person doctor visits, the growing medical trend has given patients nationwide access to quick, easy healthcare and will continue to expand in quality and application to promote wellbeing. In fact, when it comes to our area, all can feel secure in a solid presence of virtual care--a service provided by a healthcare system that has offered decades of unwavering commitment.

“Marshfield has been a leader in the use of telehealth to deliver high-quality healthcare to our patients throughout our service area since 1997,” Meyer said. “We are excited to offer another way to connect patients with their provider in a convenient, cost-conscious way.”

For more information about the services offered by Care My Way, please visit http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/care-my-way or download the CMW application available on most smart phones.






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