Mississippi hospital app extends telemedicine to rural areas

The University of Mississippi Medical Center aims to use a mobile app to enable video consultations with patients throughout the state.

The mobile service is expected to improve access to care to those who live in rural and underserved regions of the state, while reducing costs and travel times.

Using the app, consumers can make an appointment for a live video consultation with a clinician for $59; physicians can send prescriptions to a patient’s pharmacy. Initially, UMMC clinicians will be available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Consumers do not need a contract or long-term commitment to use the live video session and can add their dependents to the program.

“This will benefit consumers who have few options to access the healthcare system,” says Kevin Cook, CEO at UMMC Health System. UMMC has led efforts in the state to broaden telehealth, and as the program expands, more clinicians are expected to participate in it, Cook adds.

If a clinician conducting a video consultation determines that a patient has a serious or chronic condition, the patient will be directed to their doctor, a primary care physician, a specialist or the emergency department of a local hospital.

UMMC worked C Spire, a vendor that offers a range of technology products such as Internet, wireless, IP Voice, data, and cloud hosting. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play and Apple App stores to any smartphone running Android or iOS systems.

The app’s debut is timely as clinicians and provider organizations seek creative ways to address physician shortages, underserved areas and consumers who want more convenient access to treatment for minor health issues, says Ryan Kelly, executive director at the Mississippi Telehealth and Rural Health Association. He cites a 2015 American Medical Association study that 75 percent of doctor, urgent care and ER visits are either unnecessary or could be handled via telehealth.

“Millennials want family-friendly convenience that saves them time and money,” Kelly asserts. “People in rural areas need access. We must do a better job of meeting people at their point of need, especially in our state where many people live in rural areas with often limited access to transportation.”

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