The trend toward healthcare consumerism increasingly is at the forefront of health system decisions. In growing numbers, patients are making healthcare choices based on the ability of providers to bring value in the form of access and experience.
This patient-focused mindset is at the heart of Methodist Medical Group's strategic direction, and a key factor in its decision to launch a new telemedicine system aimed at fulfilling the demands of consumerism.
Methodist Family Health Centers, a part of Methodist Medical Group and an affiliate of Methodist Health System, has unveiled Methodist NOW, an online diagnosis and treatment service that enables patients to receive easy access to care by connecting them virtually with their Methodist Family Health Center providers.
This launch marks the next phase in Methodist Medical Group's consumer access strategy. Methodist NOW, powered by telemedicine vendor Zipnosis, facilitates care delivery through evidence-based online interviews paired with real-time chat functionality that enables patients and providers to exchange messages when additional information is needed for a diagnosis.
Methodist senior vice president Dr. George Williams said the initiative advances care delivery by adding virtual visits to its urgent care and same-day appointments.
"We believe expanding access and reducing barriers to high-value, ambulatory care will not only improve consumer experience, but also long-term health and wellness for our patients and community," Williams added.
Consumerism has many technological implications that healthcare CIOs would be wise to keep pace with, said to Doug Thompson, senior director of research at Advisory Board.
Thompson said there is a difference between patient engagement and consumerism – the former meaning people actively involved in their own health, the latter meaning consumers have informed decision makers while sellers, healthcare providers, in this case, respond to consumers' interest above all others.
"Providers may find that their business will improve if they pay attention to consumer needs and do a better job of meeting those needs," Thompson said. "They know this by talking with their consumers, finding out what they want, and understanding the implications to their business."
And that is the aim of Methodist NOW. After logging onto the telemedicine system, patients complete a brief online interview during which they enter their symptoms and health history information. Once a patient's symptoms are entered, a Methodist Family Health Center provider reviews the interview results and then responds with a diagnosis and treatment plan.
If medication is appropriate, prescriptions will be sent to the customer's preferred pharmacy for pick-up. Patients will also soon be able to join Methodist NOW as subscribers, receiving unlimited visits for a monthly fee.