MOUNT DORA, Fla. - Visiting a doctor's office is never a pleasant experience, but what if instead of going to the doctor, you were able to bring the doctor to you?
Forget the days of house calls, and welcome to the world of telemedicine, made even more convenient by smartphones and fast Internet connections.
Chastity Van Meter is a mother of two from Eustis who for the past year has been part of a pilot program for a new telemedicine app called Medek.
“Say your kids are sick and they need to see the doctor, you can just get on your app and he can see them right there,” Van Meter said. “You don’t actually have to be there so it’s a real timesaver for moms.”
The local mother said the app makes seeking medical assistance more accessible.
“You can get to it anytime you need it. You might be more apt to seek medical attention because it’s easy to do,” Van Meter said. “You don’t have to leave your home; you can do it from your couch.”
Medek was developed by United Efficiency, a small tech company based in Mount Dora. If both the name Van Meter and United Efficiency sound familiar, it’s because News 6 did a story on UE’s FleetMode app last month for our Driving Change series. Chastity’s husband, Stan Van Meter, owns United Efficiency and oversaw the development of both apps.
“As a member of Medek, I get to visit with a doctor up to three times a month,” said Mark Brisson, Medek’s marketing and public relations Manager. “I might not need all of those, but I can utilize all of those if I so choose.”
Here’s how Medek works: When someone is sick, the patient or a parent gets online from a computer or a smartphone and answers a few questions about symptoms. After submitting the answers, a Medek coordinator calls back within a few minutes. Within 30 minutes after that call, a Medek doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant follows up for the diagnosis.
After a diagnosis, the Medek healthcare professional can call in a prescription to a pharmacist or provide a referral for more serious illnesses or injuries.
Florida laws allow medical consultations to be done via phone call. Video chats, such as Facetime or Skype, are also available.
Medek is available to its members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It's also location-based, so if you’re a Florida resident but get sick in say, Kansas, you can use Medek to find a Kansas-based doctor.
“If I have to wait a day or two to get into my doctor's. That’s only going to make me that much more sick by the time I get to the doctor,” Brisson said.
How important are a quick diagnosis and medical treatment toward making a full recovery? Just look at this year’s H3N2 flu outbreak.
According to the CDC, in the first 40 days of 2018, 63 children died in the U.S. from the flu – more than three times as many as the year before. The CDC also reported that 10 percent of all deaths in the U.S. in the first week of February were caused by the flu or pneumonia.
“Two months ago during flu season, I got the flu, my son got the flu, my daughter got the flu. We used it three times right there within a week,” Van Meter said.
Medek runs $10 a month per person or $20 a month for a family. The company defines a family as spouses and dependent children up to the age of 26. For the first year, anyone who signs up has to make a 12-month commitment. After that, it’s a month-to-month membership and you can cancel anytime.
eHealth, another Telemedicine app, takes a similar approach to Medek – its service runs $13.30 a month for individuals or $15.50 for a family of up to ten.
Teladoc, a company also in the virtual healthcare business, has a different business model. Instead of a monthly plan, Teladoc members pay $40 for each general consultation. Teladoc also offers Behavioral Health Services that Brisson says Medek will offer, along with other specialists, in the near future. A consultation with a Teladoc therapist costs $160 for an initial appointment with $90 for each therapy session thereafter.
MeMD, a third telemedicine company that shares doctors with Medek, charges $57.95 per consultation and offers 50-minute Behavioral Health Services with a licensed professional for $80 per session.
Are any of these services a full replacement for having a primary care physician? No, as there are many things you still need to see a doctor for to get a thorough examination.
Brisson, however, told News 6 that according to industry research, 20 to 25 percent of all doctor visits were for minor ailments such as colds, the flu, allergies, pink eye, or skin infections are all problems a virtual doctor visit could handle.
For someone with an existing health insurance plan, telemedicine can be viewed as a “convenience supplement” to add to your coverage. These services could also provide a stop-gap if you’re between plans, or even a safety net when you and your family are traveling. Brisson suggested his company’s Medek membership could even be used as a gift.
“We think this is better healthcare and certainly more convenient,” he said.
Medek is wrapping up its pilot program in the next four weeks and will be officially launching at the end of May 2018. You can click this link and sign up for an alert when the site goes live.
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