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Consult A Doctor offers 'telemedicine for the common man'

By Eric Wicklund, Editor, ATA 2012 Show Dailies

MIAMI – With so much emphasis placed these days on helping people with chronic or complex healthcare concerns, the average person with a stuffy nose or nagging pain can get overlooked.

Consult A Doctor would like to stand up for that person.

The Miami-based company touts its product as "telemedicine for the common man," offering a broad array of platforms and solutions designed to connect the patient to a doctor – rather than the other way around. Patients can call for an almost-immediate consult with one of the company's 5,000 physicians, schedule a priority tele-consult within three hours or make an appointment for an online consult.

"What hasn't been seen that much in the past is the use of this technology generally for acute care," said Jack Karabees, Consult A Doctor's senior vice president. "It's a fledgling marketplace … but it's growing. There's a strong demand (for) acute care services. The consumer understands that."

Karabees said the company – which is unveiling a mobile phone app at ATA 2012 – wants to provide the link between the patient and a doctor, and has established a network of physicians to make that process as quick and easy as possible. The company, which markets heavily to self-insured businesses, offers several statistics as proof: 2 minutes, on average, for a patient to be connected with a doctor, 92 percent of those who called had their issues resolved, 93 percent would recommend the service, 95 percent would use it again themselves, and more than 50 percent could use the service without missing any work time.

Wolf Shlagman, Consult A Doctor's founder and CEO, said the service cuts down on unnecessary visits to the doctor's office, clinic or hospital and reduces work time lost to illness. More importantly, it enables employers and health plans to cut down on wasted medical expenses.

"Until now, concierge medicine has been something few people could obtain. When we are sick, we typically have to get in our cars and drive ourselves to our primary physician's office – if we have one. If not, our options are quite limited and usually entail spending most of a day at the local ER, wasting time and spending hundreds of dollars," he said back in January, when the company unveiled a special resource for patients seeking diagnosis and treatment for flu-like symptoms. "With telemedicine services, this entire process changes. Patients can obtain affordable, quality medical care without ever leaving their home.

Over the past two months, Consult A Doctor has broadened its reach, unveiling MyHealthPlan 24/7, a cloud-based solution built on the company's TeleCare 3.0 platform and designed specifically for health plans, and MyHospital 24/7, a platform designed specifically for hospitals and health systems.

Karabees said the growth is natural and well positioned. Spurred on by the sour economy and federal efforts to reform healthcare, both hospitals and health plans are looking to trim wasteful spending and improve operations. In addition, he said, more than 85 percent of all people get their healthcare coverage through their employer, making self-insured companies and health plans the primary target for a service like Consult A Doctor.

And while hospitals will be looking to improve their bottom line through telemedicine, Karabees doesn't see the individual physician or small practice adopting a specific telehealth business plan just yet. Consult A Doctor does have a physician-facing product, he says, and it will attract the more forward-thinking physicians, but a majority of them aren't ready to take that initiative.

"They're not ready to pick up the telephone at midnight," he pointed out. "The incentives aren't there yet, and there's no pain in terms of lifestyle. They're thinking, 'At 9 o'clock in the evening, I can do without the $40.'"

Hence the need for Consult A Doctor, he concludes.

Consult A Doctor is at Booth 1601 in the ATA Exhibit Hall.

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