Cigna announced a deal with telehealth provider MDLive to offer some of its health plan members access to online video, telephone or email consultations with physicians. The plan members would have access to the 2,200 internal medicine, family practice and pediatric physicians that MDLive has on-call in states around the country.
MDLive CEO Randy Parker told MobiHealthNews that the focus of the deal with Cigna is on the health insurance company's self-insured employers customer group. Cigna members' whose employer opts to offer MDLive's services to their employees will have access to the services beginning in 2014. Cigna plans to begin marketing the offering to that group this June.
The eligible Cigna health plan members can use MDLive either by scheduling an appointment or requesting a consultation right away. MDLive says the average wait time is about 11 minutes and the user is notified that the doctor is ready to connect by both text message and email notifications.
Of course, these remote consultations are only for non-emergency medical issues, including colds, the flu, rashes, sinus issues or headaches for children and adults. The video demo of the Cigna-MDLive service also showed an option for scheduling an appointment with a "Therapist", so mental health services may be included or just around the corner.
While the consultations can be simple phone conversations or email exchanges, Parker said that the video consultations through MDLive work on computers as well as through iPhones, iPads, and Android devices -- all via a secure, HIPAA-compliant connection. Parker said his company has noticed a recent uptick in usage among both MDLive physicians and patients using iPads to conduct remote consultations.
Parker also stressed that while MDLive is an alternative for late night emergency room visits when the issue is not an emergency, MDLive aims to make the consultation that takes place between its physicians and patients easily transferrable to that patient's primary care provider to ensure continuity of care. Parker said that continuity of care is often not maintained when patients go to the ER.
"Whatever takes place during an MDLive visit is captured and transferred securely to the patient's primary care provider," Parker said. "It's all worth noting that we are the 411 not the 911 and MDLive does not replace the need to go the doctor, but we find that more than 70 percent of the patients who go to the ER could have avoided that visit or at least resolved their problems through a solution and a platform like MDLive."