TouchCare, a Durham, N.C.-based telehealth company founded in 2013, is striving to make telehealth more intimate.

“Most third-party telehealth services assign patients to random doctors they don’t know,” says Dov Cohn, TouchCare’s senior vice president of products. “We focus on connecting patients with their own doctors and healthcare providers. Our approach builds on existing relationships, trust and access to previous health records. Those things are all shown to improve health outcomes.”

TouchCare offers more than just connectivity to patients; it helps doctors connect with each other, too. Providers to conduct HIPAA-compliant video consults with each other, talking face-to-face privately or sitting alongside a patient to present the case to a specialist anywhere in the world.

TouchCare provides secure patient-physician phone connectivity.
TouchCare provides secure patient-physician phone connectivity.

“By leveraging video for peer-to-peer consults, providers can improve communication through the care chain, helping eliminate misunderstandings or communication gaps and improving continuity of care,” Cohn says.

According to Cohn, TouchCare is designed for medical practices of all sizes, from solo providers to hospitals. The app requires no lengthy implementation, works within existing workflows and can be easily deployed with a simple download from the App Store.

Jennie Byrne, MD, a psychiatrist in Chapel Hill, N.C., uses TouchCare to augment visits with her patients, particularly if they can’t get into the office or if she or her patients are traveling. She also alternates in-person visits with telehealth visits for patients who live far away.

Byrne determines which patients should use TouchCare by their level of acuity, she says. Patients who are likely to need to go to an emergency department, or substance abuse patients whose conditions are precarious are not candidates for telehealth visits, she says.

Overall, her patients like it and they engage well with TouchCare, she says. Younger patients take to it immediately, and older patients, once they are familiar with it, also like it.

Byrne says she likes using TouchCare because it gives her access to her patients in circumstances when she might not normally have access. “It’s not the same as face-to-face, which is ideal. But, it’s pretty close,” she says.

One challenge with the technology is that it’s sometimes difficult to make direct eye contact, because of the camera location on most PCs. And Internet disruptions sometimes disturb the telehealth visit. “For the most part, today’s bandwidth capabilities can easily handle it,” she says.

Byrne says she sees the use of telehealth visits “increasing exponentially” in the future, especially in rural areas, where access to physicians is limited.

TouchCare is planning some new products and looking for ways to facilitate more on-demand services between patients and their doctors, Cohn says, adding that the company is pursuing new ways of using telehealth with more stakeholders, including insurance providers, employers and healthcare exchanges, he says.

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