Chief Executive Keith Newton and I spoke last week about Concentra’s rollout of its telemedicine program, following up on our in-depth discussion a month ago about the company’s plans and strategy.
The first patient interactions began a couple of weeks ago with a limited rollout, and so far, patient reaction has been quite positive. According to Newton, one of the first patients said, “I love it so much I’m going to tell all my coworkers about it.”
Concentra is employing third-party technology vendor American Well’s web application to allow patients to “visit” Concentra’s physicians via the internet.
Here’s part of our conversation:
Paduda: What is Concentra’s approach to telemedicine today?
Newton: Our initial approach is to use telemedicine for [some] injury care and follow-up rechecks with existing patients. We have identified specific types of cases where [we will employ] telemedicine initially. Patients will be triaged 24/7 to an injury coordinator, then to an medical doctor for secondary triage, then care [if appropriate via telemedicine]. We are also going to do physical therapy and specialist care. There are a number of considerations including onsite staffing, load balancing and reducing patient wait times. Twenty percent or so of patients could be seen via telemedicine … California is our first state; we are initially doing visits from 7 a.m.–11 p.m.; we’ll will add longer hours and multiple states over time.
Paduda: Describe the technology you are using.
Newton: We met with 10-15 technology companies working in telemedicine to learn as much as possible. We are using American Well for the connection only; all back-end applications are internal Concentra applications, so we access their technology ... It is not an integration but using their tech for the “visit” and using Concentra’s Allscripts and Occusource internal applications for documentation [and other functions].
Paduda: How are telemedicine interactions different from office visits?
Newton: You need the right intake coordinators and physicians. In a bricks and mortar setting [normal live office visit] there is lots of activity going on in the clinic. When you are on video it is just you and the patient; the doctors have to engage and show focus on the patient, connect with them one-on-one, maintain eye contact. That puts the patient at ease. This may make for better and stronger patient-physician relations and connections via telemedicine. It could also make in-person visits more productive, and satisfying, for patients and providers as they adopt that behavior for live encounters as well.
Paduda: Tell me about the process Concentra used to prepare to see patients via telemedicine.
Newton: Internally we did about a hundred “mock visits” to make it as seamless as possible to make sure patient experience was made as successful as possible. [We] used internal staff as testers to provide feedback, improve the process and service. There will be continuing evolution; there are new tools arriving every day, some of which may be useful for incorporation into the telemedicine process. Things will look different in a few months — for now, we are looking to make it as simple as possible for any stakeholder — the payer, employer or patient.
What does this mean for you? Telemedicine is going to be highly disruptive to care delivery models, and has broad implications for all stakeholders.
Joe Paduda is co-owner of CompPharma, a consortium of pharmacy benefit managers. This column is republished with his permission from his Managed Care Matters blog.
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