Hospital's primary care visits go fully online

Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Health Center has taken the doc-on-demand concept to the next level, putting its entire primary-care practice online in a service called MSM Online Care.

The Lewiston, N.Y.-based hospital has partnered with telecare/online service company American Well, but rather than use the national network of American Well's physicians, Mount St. Mary's has created a private label version using its own doctors. The system is a spin-off of a collaboration that started last fall between MSM, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, and Ascension Health.

Any patients in the western New York area can use the service, but hospital officials are marketing it particularly to MSM patients, as a way for them to connect online with their existing PCPs. Patients are asked not to use the system for emergencies, but can use it for just about anything else--acute issues, medication questions, physical symptom checks and chronic care problems.

The visits follow the basic American Well formula, with patients browsing through a list of MSM physicians, choosing the one they prefer, and either connecting instantly, or scheduling an online appointment. It's unclear whether patients will have instant access to their own physician at any given time, but hospital officials indicate they will be connected with an available MSM doctor 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

The sessions can include online chat, video consults and live voice interaction, and generally last 10 minutes, and cost $25, hospital officials say. The visits can be extended, but will cost more. Interestingly, the hospital also has created a kiosk on the MSM campus that patients can use to access the system.

No word yet on how physicians are reacting to the instant-on promises the systems makes--that patients can talk to physicians "whenever you want."

In one intriguing tidbit, hospital staff will provide training for patients on how to use the system, CEO Judith Maness told the local news site BelowTheFalls.com. "The ones who are interested, we'll walk them through it and show them how easy it is to use," she says.

To learn more:
- read the Buffalo Business First article
- check out coverage from BelowTheFalls.com
- see an online demo of MSM Online Care

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