Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Minnesota Virtual Clinic Provides Health Care Online

Soon coming, presumably, to a neighborhood near you will be the virtual clinic, a kind of Internet cafe for people with boo-boos.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will launch a pilot project in which its 10,000 employees can use a "virtual clinic" to receive a live, 10-minute physician consultation for a flat fee. [...]

Once a doctor and patient have connected, they can communicate via webcam and instant messages.

Roy Schoenberg, who developed the virtual clinic software, said that physicians will have access to patients' electronic health records and that each virtual clinic visit will be added to a patient's EHR.

BCBS is hoping that the "virtual clinic" will play a significant role in transforming health care by making health care more convenient and cost-effective.
A somewhat similar tele-medicine system was launched in the state of Maine a few years ago which included diagnosing and treating patients with psychiatric problems . The intent there was to provide some level of health care to low-density population areas in the remote parts of the state. I haven't seen any reports on the effectiveness of the program in Maine.

Plans are for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield effort in Minnesota to be expanded to the general public.

In any event, I'm far from convinced that doctors can adequately examine patients on the Internet. In addition, I'll probably never feel comfortable about putting patient medical records on the Internet.

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