There’s no convenient time to get sick. And with all the work and family obligations confronting many of us each day, often there’s no convenient time to schedule a doctor visit for a health issue such as a cold, flu, earache, or sinus infection. As a result, too many people simply endure unpleasant symptoms rather than seek the care they need.
The good news is, thanks to an innovative new telehealth program offered by ProMedica and Paramount Health Care, anyone in our community can now access expert medical care online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. The program, called ProMedica OnDemand, is available at an affordable price to anyone, whether or not they are a ProMedica patient or reside within the ProMedica service area, and can be accessed by computer, tablet, or smartphone via a mobile app or at www.promedica.org/ondemand.
“Through this convenient, cost-effective service, we’re trying to enhance access to primary care providers for any consumers who need it, as well as to reduce emergency room use for non-emergent medical conditions,” explains Brandon Falknor, director of business development for ProMedica Physicians. Falknor emphasizes that ProMedica OnDemand is a complement to routine office visits with a primary care physician, not a substitute for them. In fact, to promote continuity of care, visit notes, including the treatment offered and any medications prescribed, can be shared with the patient’s primary care provider.
ProMedica OnDemand is appropriate for a wide range of lower-acuity health conditions, for example colds, flu, sore throats, respiratory infections, sinus infections, earaches, eye infections, urinary tract infections, bronchitis, and rashes. “However, higher-acuity problems, such as chest pain, or anything requiring diagnostic testing, such as a chest x-ray or bloodwork, would not be appropriate for this service. Of course any emergent condition warrants a trip to the emergency room or an urgent care facility,” states family practitioner David Knieriem, MD, of ProMedica Physicians.
ProMedica OnDemand is open to both adult and pediatric patients, and parents with young children are especially appreciative of the program. When their child wakes in the middle of the night with symptoms of an ear infection or other ailment, they can go online immediately for a medical visit, potentially eliminating the need to call off work or scramble to line up a babysitter the next day.
With respect to telehealth programs in general, a question that frequently arises is, how can doctors effectively treat patients if they aren’t in the same room to take their temperature, check their pulse, look in their ears, etc. However, as Dr. Knieriem points out, diagnosing many common ailments is a matter of asking questions—which can be done just as easily remotely as in person. “I believe very strongly in evidence-based medicine, so I initially had some reservations about evaluating patients online as well. But you can diagnose a lot of low-acuity conditions just by asking the right questions and getting a thorough history from the patient. After doing this for a while, I’m confident in the ability to diagnose patients effectively and provide high-quality care through the webcam,” he says.
The cost of an online office visit through ProMedica OnDemand is $49.00 or less, and all major credit cards are accepted. For Paramount commercial members, the only cost is their copay. Other programs and health plans will soon be participating in the program as well.
Its cost-effectiveness notwithstanding, the strongest selling point of ProMedica OnDemand, according to Falknor, is the access it provides. “Getting in to see a primary care doctor can be difficult for some, and it’s not always appropriate to go to the emergency room or an urgent care facility, but with ProMedica OnDemand, anyone can have convenient access to expert healthcare right when they need it,” he states.❦