Health consult at your fingertips with Jefferson’s new app

 JeffConnect by Thomas Jefferson University (Electronic images via iTunes)

JeffConnect by Thomas Jefferson University (Electronic images via iTunes)

The closed roads in and around Philadelphia will make getting to a doctor something of an obstacle course this weekend. So one hospital is letting patients have virtual appointments.

Jefferson Health’s new virtual care app connects patients with non-emergency conditions to doctors who can make treatment recommendations and, in some cases, write prescriptions.

“We want to be able to take care of people in the way they want to be taken care of, and make it more convenient,” says Dr. Judd Hollander, associate dean for strategic health initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “So it is our hope that rather than making people drive downtown to a hospital, we can bring Jefferson to them.”

Jefferson Health already offers the service to its employees, and it initially planned on rolling out the app next year to the public. But Hollander said the papal visit pushed the hospital system to move up the launch date.

Catholic pilgrims, as well as people who have never been treated by a Jefferson medical provider, can use the app. Each online consult costs $49, a fee not covered by most insurers.

“Reality is, even if it isn’t paid for by insurance, it is less money than the co-pay at an urgent care center, and a little more money than the co-pay for your physician, and it is a lot more convenient,” Hollander said.

While the app could make financial sense for a patient, Hollander said the hospital loses money on each virtual appointment. In the long run, though, he argues telemedicine is where medical care and the health system are ultimately heading.

“If patients are given the choice between getting their care at work, or in their living room, or the emergency department, people will choose to get it any place but the emergency department.”

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