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Online consults increasing, despite physicians' concerns

InformationWeek, February 12, 2013

Online consultations are spreading fast now that payers have figured out how to use them to save money. Last week, Health Affairs published a paper by researchers at HealthPartners—a Minnesota-based health plan and physician group—showing that online consultations with nurse practitioners for minor ailments saved the insurer $88 per episode of care. In most cases, these "virtual visits" to Virtuwell, a HealthPartners subsidiary, replaced office visits and visits to ERs, urgent care centers and retail clinics. The online service produced a high level of patient satisfaction while delivering care that was said to be as effective as in-person encounters with providers.