More health care providers in Westchester County are telling their patients they can skip the traffic, dodge the waiting room and speak with their doctor online.
The latest county care provider to launch a platform for virtual doctors visits is CareMount Medical, the Mount Kisco-based doctors group that describes itself as the largest independent multispecialty medical group in New York state.
At the end of June, the doctors group announced the launch of CareMount 24/7. The platform includes a virtual visit option that allows patients to quickly connect with a doctor in real time to receive a diagnosis, treatment plan or prescription. CareMount patients can also use the app or desktop access to remotely manage postoperative care.
In the early going, the doctors group has had about a dozen surgeons start offering virtual visits through the app and about 1,000 patients take advantage, according to Lewis Kohl, CareMount’s chief medical information officer. He stressed that virtual visits are “just a part of patient care, certainly not a replacement for traditional care and face-to-face interaction.”
“We are a big group and do traditional medicine, but the world is changing and these are things people want,” Kohl said.
CareMount is working with Teladoc for the offering, the Purchase-based publicly traded telehealth company. Teladoc provides an established platform and also a large base of doctors available for consultations in some cases.
Kohl said the virtual visits would be most immediately useful for urgent care visits. In those cases, Teladoc doctors can help handle visits for nonemergency consultations.
“For a mom with six kids and one of them has a rash and she really can’t get the whole family into the office, this is a great feature,” Kohl said.
But the platform will also be utilized for post-operation checkups for patients with their physician.
“With the patient home comfortably on their couch, they can show the surgeon their wound, how they are walking,” Kohl said. “It won’t work in all cases. But you may have two in-person postoperative visits and three virtual postoperative visits.”
The platform could also be useful for care management, allowing trained nurses to do periodic check-ins with patients to identify potential health issues before major problems occur. It’s helpful to have these type of check-ins happen inside a patient’s home, Kohl said.
“Say it’s a patient with congestive heart failure. You say, ‘show me the refrigerator’ and it’s all Twinkies and beer. You know he’s probably not doing so good on the diet,” Kohl said. “The ability to look at a patient’s home, to actually see them, to see they don’t look pale, they’re not sweating. That gives a care manager a lot of insight.”
CareMount joins medical providers such as NewYork-Presbyterian, which in 2016 launched digital urgent care and virtual visits through its NYP OnDemand platform. The medical group offers virtual consultations with doctors in its network that include ColumbiaDoctors, Weill Cornell Medicine’s Physician Organization and NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group.
Westchester Medical Center’s WMCHealth care network offers outpatient telemedicine services in the psychiatry and dermatology specialties as part of its eHealth program. The Mental Health Association of Westchester also launched a telehealth initiative last year that allows a patient in one of its three county offices to meet with a mental health professional in a separate office.
Westchester is home to companies focused on telehealth and virtual visit industry as well. There’s Teladoc, which has its administrative headquarters at 2 Manhattanville Road in Purchase. The company is the industry’s largest, managing telehealth services for major insurers and companies, such as Aetna and PepsiCo.
There’s also telehealth startups in the county. Based at the New York Medical College biotech incubator in Valhalla, Medisprout is a tech startup focused on building a platform for doctors and patients to easily schedule and host virtual consultations.
Purchase-based doctors group Westmed Medical Group, meanwhile, expects to be rolling out its own platform for virtual doctors visits soon, according to CEO Anthony Viceroy.
“Telemedicine is a terrific form of receiving care for minor, non-acute related needs for patients,” Viceroy said. “We think it can create much greater access, much greater efficiency for patients and be more cost effective.”
Westmed would also look to integrate the visits into home health and post-operative checkup appointments. Viceroy said the doctors group will partner with a technology provider for the service.
Viceroy also gave the caveat that the visits are a supplement to the group’s current services, not a replacement.
“This can provide an overall better experience for our patients,” Viceroy said. “But, certainly, any patient that wants to come in to our urgent care, we’re open seven days a week.”