With healthcare costs skyrocketing, there are some who are getting creative in helping to make care more affordable, especially for those in financial need. One way physicians are doing that: seeing patients via Skype.
One doctor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dr. Lee Montgomery, uses it for follow-ups or to evaluate minor problems. He says it is not appropriate in a situation where a patient requires a diagnosis, and certainly in any emergency situation. But it’s one way he enables some of his patients, who otherwise couldn’t afford it, to access his care because it costs a fraction of the price of a regular office visit. If you pay $30 per month for his membership program, Skype visits cost just $10.
But Skype isn’t all about reducing costs. Dr. Spero Theodorou, a plastic surgeon from New York, uses it as a screening tool to determine whether potential patients are likely to be good candidates for a cosmetic procedure called SmartLipo. He uses it not to reduce costs, but as a time-saving tool for his patients.
Dr. Loren Olson, a psychiatrist from Iowa, practices at six different sites, including some which are inner city. He estimates that approximately 50% of patients with serious mental illness are not accessing healthcare services, so Skype visits present a new opportunity for at least some of those patients to get the care they need. Skype visits aren’t as intimate as in-person consults, but for some patients, the alternative to Skype visits is not visiting at all. And he once had a patient inadvertently ask for a glass of water during a Skype session, so in his experience, patients can become as immersed through Skype as in-person.
Right now, most insurance carriers won’t pay for Skype visits, but that may change in the future.
Submitted by Dave Schlosser, Patient Navigator LLC