County discusses doc visits over web to curb rising costs

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Imperial County logoEL CENTRO – Tuesday, the Imperial County board heard a proposal from Stat Health Services Inc as a way to lower health costs through TeleHealth.

TeleHealth would allow insured employees of the County to access a health professional through either their Skype or web cam for diagnostics of minor ailments. This is to cut down emergency room visits that are becoming cost prohibitive.

This virtual house call via web or phone could connect the insured with a board certified emergency room physician for common medical conditions. The plan would cost the county $25 and the user $25 per call, verses the average ER cost of $898 for the patient. The employee would also pay a $1.00 per month fee to belong. The emergency room cost alone for the county in 2011 was $921,882.

According to Stat Health, if the 551 emergency room visits for the 9 months reported for 2012 were seen through TeleHealth, the cost would have been $35,375 instead of the actual charge to the county of $494.798.

According to Stat Health presenters, over 66% of emergency care are non-emergencies.

The board had many questions, such as prescribing medicines, knowing blood pressure, and mis-diagnosis.

Stat Health officials said that the service was for non-emergency needs and would be available 24/7 and be bilingual. The wait time is 7 to 8 minutes, compared to hours in the doctor’s office or in ER. Telemedicine doctors can prescribe medicine they said.

The types of medical services treated over the phone or through a web cam would be allergies, arthritic pain, asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu, diarrhea, infections, sprains, and urinary tract infections to name a few.

The board voted approval of moving forward with TeleHealth and for a Wellness Program that promotes healthy living, eating, and exercise through prizes and incentives for those on the county healthcare plan.