UAB Medicine of Birmingham, Ala., claims it is the state’s first medical provider to offer online diagnosis and treatment of common conditions, such as colds, allergies, bladder infections, and pink eye.

The service, known as UAB eMedicine, is for adults 18 and older in Birmingham and the surrounding area. Patients are charged a $25 fee only if the clinician can diagnose their condition through the service. If symptoms are too complex or advanced, patients will be referred for additional care.

“eMedicine is an urgent care service that enables patients to use their desktop or mobile devices to interact with our providers,” said Stuart Cohen, M.D., medical director of primary care at the UAB School of Medicine. “This will add to patient convenience for those who are suffering from upper respiratory infections, flu, allergies and other things very common in an urgent-care setting. It’s really a novel way to extend the physician-patient relationship.”

The online visit takes approximately five minutes to complete, although the total number of questions depends on the patient and the condition. eMedicine uses a diagnosis and treatment software system developed by Minneapolis-based Zipnosis to collect a patient’s symptoms in minutes by asking the same questions a clinician would in face-to-face meeting. The patient’s responses are reviewed by a UAB clinician who provides a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Patients can complete their visit 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and a diagnosis will be provided within an hour if the case is submitted during normal eMedicine hours of operation: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

“The patient can go online at 2 a.m. if they aren’t feeling well and complete the questionnaire, and when they wake up in the morning, everything will be rendered and taken care of,” Cohen said.

After the visit is completed, patients are notified their diagnosis is ready by text message or email. Once they review their treatment plan, a prescription--if needed--will be electronically sent to the pharmacy of their choice.

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