Stanford Hospital & Clinics has rolled out a new primary care service, powered by a feature available within its Epic EMR, offering medical visits via web video.
The new service allows patients to schedule video visits via the hospital website, using a scheduling application available on the site, InformationWeek reports. At the scheduled time, patient and doctor meet together in a web-based video conference.
The service, which Stanford dubs “eCare,” takes advantage of Epic’s software for video consultations. The video consult is integrated into the patient’s Epic medical record automatically. eCare also integrates third–party identity verification services in an effort to make sure the patient is who they say they are.
According to Stanford CIO Pravene Nath, M.D., who spoke with InformationWeek, video visits are medically appropriate for a range of noncritical visits and follow-ups. For example, one of the service’s first patients had an eye condition; the doctor was able to help simply by looking into the camera at the patient’s eyes. Another example of condition appropriate for web conferencing is treatment of a skin rash, Nath said.
“These are cases where a quick visual is all that is needed, followed by a quick interaction of the patient talking with the doctor,” Nath told InformationWeek.
Stanford is offering eCare first to employees of self insured firms who contract with the hospital. That way, neither the employer nor Stanford has to worry about whether a managed-care company will reimburse the doctors for the video visits. But Stanford’s intent is to make video consults available to everyone, InformationWeek says.
Stanford’s care program is just one of several virtual healthcare services the hospital’s developing, IW reports. The organization is also looking into secure messaging between doctors and patients and a service which involves submitting a still photo of them conducting a live videoconference, the magazine says.
If Stanford can make the integrated EMR and web visits work, it may be breaking new ground. A few months ago, I wrote a piece noting that many telemedicine providers are very reluctant to integrate with EMRs, given that the need for interoperability with so many systems could choke their development efforts.
While enabling telemedicine isn’t going to offer Epic any huge advantage it doesn’t have already, it does offer some intriguing possibilities. If thought leaders like Stanford make a success of web visits, using Epic technology, it might force other competitors into the telemedicine arena as well. It will be interesting to see how influential Stanford’s experiment turns out to be.