Online consults increasing, despite physicians' concerns
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.
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