While urgent care providers view telemedicine as a threatening competitor, which could siphon patients from their customer base, the urgent care institution Doctors Care doesn’t feel that way. Embracing the ever-popular “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy, Doctors Care has chosen to increase its use of telemedicine to offer its patients more options when they’re receiving care.
With 55 facilities across Tennessee and South Carolina, Doctors Care is expanding what it offers its client base, beginning with an investment in technology. The company uses communication systems already in place and existing information in order to offer patients supplemental services. Doctors Care doesn’t worry that telemedicine may divert patients from their brick-and-mortar facilities.
Looking at the model from the perspective of a consumer, officials offering non-medical support services saw the value of providing care to patients in a way that speaks to current trends and the future. Since 2013, Doctors Care has been examining telemedicine and gauging how these services would be incorporated into standing services. The company acknowledged that wait time at some of its urgent care sites could be three hours or more while other location had absolutely no wait time.
Equipping facilities with telemedicine capabilities makes it possible for individuals visiting crowded sites to be seen remotely or immediately, in order to ease numbers in these busier waiting rooms, acting as a load balancing approach. Doctors Care operators found that patients frequently opted to be examined remotely, with medical assistants or nurses administering these examinations. Furthermore, the technology makes so that an all-in-one camera supports dermatological examinations of the nose, ear, throat, eye, or skin, as well as an otoscope. Physicians are also equipped with Bluetooth-enabled stethoscopes, and patients are able to receive X-ray procedures and labs at presentation sites.
Doctors Care builds on existing telephone and network infrastructure to support their telemedicine initiative. This has helped the company to achieve some of its key goals, which are increasing patient satisfaction and reducing patient wait time. By doing this experiment, operators found that many patients prefer telemedicine, regardless of wait time at facilities. This is perfect for conditions that don’t require on-site examination, particularly those for upper respiratory illnesses, fever, ear infection, sore throat, sinusitis, eye infection, life infection, and mild skin conditions. The telemedicine features also include direct-to-consumer consultations. The company spent just $50,000 to expand telemedicine capabilities.
Urgent care is a viable alternative to the emergency room, and provider should be treating conditions or injuries just short of ER needs. Telemedicine is important for low-touch, non-emergency care, and it could enable facilities to offer more care in more venues, in the way of occupational health, specialists, or help operators. Telemedicine being marketed directly to consumers is somewhat new, nonetheless, it treats a subset of patients who have conditions suited for direct-to-consumer medicine.
Some will continue to believe that telemedicine poses a challenge while other urgent care centers will embrace telemedicine wholly.