An Aurora-based clinic, which has 11 facilities around the suburbs, offers busy people a chance to check in with a doctor electronically to discuss simple symptoms, such as sinus congestion, allergies, sore throat or eye redness.
Established patients at Aurora-based Dreyer Medical Clinic can use eVisits, an electronic service that provides a quick doctor visit online. The cost is $30, about the same as an office visit co-payment, which is submitted to patients' insurance.
"The most obvious advantages are that patients can receive care for simple conditions whenever it is convenient for them," said Rich Kelly, medical director of primary care, endocrinology and electronic medical records at Dreyer Medical Clinic, based in Oswego.
The eVisits are geared to adult patients and no appointment is needed. Patients answer an online questionnaire, which was developed by Dreyer doctors, Kelly said.
If those questionnaires are submitted between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, or between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends, patients can expected a quick response, he said.
"Currently patients are getting an answer on their submission in roughly 10 minutes," Kelly said. "Because there is little overhead involved from a business standpoint, we are able to provide this service at a low price to the patient, which is important in today's economy with the ever-rising cost of health care."
Dreyer instituted a pilot program in April 2011. A survey showed that 70 percent of their patients said they would use the electronic program again. By Sept. 1, the medical practice launched the program and expanded the number of symptoms that it would provide diagnosis and treatment plans. Patients go to Dreyermed.com, or access their Dreyer Medical Clinic personal patient portal.
"To a certain degree this is really blazing new territory not only at Dreyer, but also in the world of medicine," said Kelly. "We've had a tremendous multidisciplinary team of physicians and IT staff working on this project for more than a year to bring it to reality. There are really only a handful of clinics that are leveraging technology in this fashion, but it has been proven to be a safe and effective way to care for simple medical ailments."
The online questionnaires are vital, he said.
"We had safety in mind at Dreyer when we built our questionnaires and have 'hard stops' that would prompt a patient to be seen should they answer a question in such a way to lead us to believe that their illness or situation is more serious than one that could be dealt with electronically," Kelly said.
If the symptoms indicated are more serious, patients are asked to go to an emergency room or, at least, come in to the office, depending on the situations, he said.
"Of course, when the doctor reviews a questionnaire, they always have the ability to advise the patient to be seen if he or she feels it's in the patient's best interest," Kelly said.
As eVisits are used, the medical practice may further expand the list of symptoms considered for eVisits.
"The sky is the limit with new technologies being developed daily," Kelly said. "Who knows, maybe soon we'll be talking about virtual visits via teleconferencing where patients and physicians can actually see each other to complete a visit."
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