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Telemedicine Program Signals Bold Leadership on a Small Scale

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, December 7, 2012

Let me tell you a story about a large hospital system in New York that is doing something pretty simple and low-risk, but could offer potentially big returns down the road.

Beginning last month, Continuum Health Partners, a partnership of three hospitals that includes the flagship Beth Israel Medical Center, started offering 24/7 access to its physicians through Teladoc, a subscription service targeted toward New York City residents for consultation on minor medical conditions.

They see the service as a way to broaden access and to serve as an alternative to ER visits or for when patients are unable to get in to see their physician in person.  Spoiler alert: I know what you're thinking, but Continuum physicians did not show up at Harris Nagler's doorstep with pitchforks and torches.

In fact, they welcomed the move. Why? It's a new revenue stream, for starters.

Nagler, Beth Israel's president, and an MD himself, says Teladoc is not a competitor for Continuum's physicians. Actually, they'll take many of the calls or video consultations. The service is a variation on the concierge healthcare trend that until now, has been slow to pick up steam. But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of people who will take advantage, Nagler says.

"Coming to the physician office under the best of circumstances is time consuming," he says. "Many ailments people might have don't require that time commitment. This is easier and less expensive and it works within a media that is become so familiar to so many people."

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