Winona Health to offer $40 teleconsultations to its patients

Winona Health in Minnesota is launching a telemedicine program that will let consumers have remote consultations with Winona doctors.

The rural health provider is working toward adoption of value-based contracts as it focuses on community wellness, says Rachelle Schultz, CEO at Winona. The organization includes a 49-bed hospital, 110-bed nursing home and more than 90 other providers.

“We are committed to improving access to high-quality care that is also convenient and affordable,” she explains. “Between busy schedules and high-deductible insurance, convenience and affordability are increasingly important to people.”

The delivery system is working with telehealth vendor Bright.md and electronic health record vendor Cerner on the initiative.

Bright.md’s SmartExam virtual care platform enables patients to seek care for more than 400 medical conditions using a smartphone or computer. Providers can review information from the patient, the electronic medical record and other sources, and the records are automatically updated after treatment. Patients will receive treatment plans and any necessary prescriptions often within an hour.

Winona has dabbled in telehealth for several years, but consumers were not particularly interested, in part because the technology was not user friendly, Schultz recalls. Now, the technology is ready, many providers are embracing population health management and so are a growing number of consumers, who typically will pay about $40 for a consultation.

“We needed an avenue to deliver easy access and convenient care, to connect to the EHR, and be consumer and provider friendly,” she adds.

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Also See: Medicare to expand beneficiary access to telehealth services

Preparations have begun for a telehealth launch at Winona in January. The work ahead includes optimizing data and putting it in the EHR, as well as launching a patient awareness campaign, says Ray Costantini, CEO and co-founder at Bright.md.

Winona will use its web portal to promote the services, supplemented with an email campaign, according to Schultz. While there is no formal pilot program planned, as integration is completed the organization will conduct sample runs in a soft launch using employees.

In general, Schultz expects most transactions will be done via health savings account cards, debit cards and credit cards, which means the organization won’t need a formal billing service and can run the cards through a swipe machine, reducing costs for the organization and patients.

“There is no question that many things in healthcare have to change and the time for this technology is coming because consumers are coming,” she asserts.

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