HealthPartners, a large delivery system based in Bloomington, Minn., has launched an online clinic offering diagnosis and treatment of 30 common medical conditions.
The service, called virtuwell, is available at all hours to all persons living in or visiting Minnesota, regardless of whether they receive care from HealthPartners facilities or are covered under the insurance unit of HealthPartners. The cost is $40 or an individual's copay under their insurance plan.
Nurse practitioners will provider personalized diagnosis, treatment recommendations and prescriptions if necessary. An individual visiting virtuwell.com must complete a detailed questionnaire that covers symptoms, medical history, current medications and allergies, and current health status, among other factors.
An individual with flu-like symptoms, for example, will be walked through multiple screens to pinpoint specific symptoms, the sudden or gradual appearance of symptoms, the number of days with symptoms, and over-the-counter medications currently being used to treat the symptoms. The individual then enters demographic and insurance/payment information, an e-mail address for username, a password and a secret question/answer. A nurse practitioner then makes a diagnosis and establishes a treatment plan. The point-and-click questionnaire takes only a few minutes to complete.
But if an individual while answering questions indicates certain symptoms that indicate a deeper medical condition--such as flu symptoms that include chest pain not associated with a cough, or dizziness or confusion--the questionnaire is halted and the individual is told to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Several major employers, including Polaris Industries and Andersen Corp., tested the service. HealthPartners plans to offer virtuwell beyond Minnesota but has not disclosed a timetable.
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