As we explored this month in "The Doctor of the Future," the doctor-patient relationship isn't what it used to be. Take primary-care physicians. Because insurance companies pay them considerably less than specialists, they rely on volume. The more office visits these docs can squeeze in, the more procedures they can perform and bill for. But getting paid by tight-fisted insurers requires a tenacious staff to file endless paperwork and engage in the reimbursement dance of procedural codes and multiple phone calls.
Today in Boston, at the Health 2.0 conference, which focuses on innovative health care, Dr. Jay Parkinson and Dr. Sean Khozin of Hello Health in Brooklyn unveil a different kind of medical practice. Paradoxically, it allows them to devote more time and attention to patients by often employing remote medicine.
A few weeks ago, Parkinson, an inveterate blogger and the chief concept officer at the software company Myca, gave me a sneak preview of the platform. It's part electronic medical record, part practice-management system, and part social-networking site, complete with profiles and photos of doctors and patients, all in a secure environment that complies with federal privacy standards. Unlike traditional electronic medical records, which are designed primarily to facilitate billing, this application is primarily about enhancing communication—between doctors and patients, as well as among doctors.
Your patient home page displays your medical team, which includes your primary-care physician and any specialists. You choose them by location or patient ratings, or go with the experts listed on your primary-care physician's profile. To schedule an appointment, you simply pull up a doctor's schedule, select a half hour or hour time slot, and indicate the type of appointment—in-person, video chat, email, etc. You also describe your complaint in a text box, which allows the doctor to think about the issue beforehand. After the appointment, you—and your doctor—can review the visit, a smart solution to avoid forgetting what was said. That alone could lead to dramatically improved care.
Joining the Myca platform is free; doctors set their own fees per visit, and Myca gets a cut. "It's like Zipcar, but instead of renting a car, you're renting a doctor," says Parkinson.
True, all the kinks have yet to be worked out. Insurance companies, for instance, haven't fully embraced e-visits yet, but they're beginning to cover them. It feels like it's only a matter of time, though. Patients—and their doctors—will soon expect and demand this kind of convenience and access.