Health care provider visit just clicks away with UMMC telehealth benefit
Published on Monday, July 24, 2017
By: Ruth Cummins
Mississippi state employees and their families who take advantage of the state insurance plan can receive same-day minor medical care, at home or work, through a new telehealth benefit offered by the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
UMMC 2 You allows them to securely visit with a Medical Center family nurse practitioner over the Internet using their desktop or laptop computer, tablet or smartphone. It’s an actual clinic visit using the patient’s webcam, and it’s now covered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi-administered state and school employees’ health insurance plan. UMMC employees are among those eligible.
“This is so beneficial to people in our state because of the need for access to affordable care in a timely manner,” said Tearsanee Davis, the Center for Telehealth’s director of clinical health and advanced practice operations. “There’s not always a clinic on a corner near you.”
From 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, a team of providers that includes family nurse practitioners Kristi Goodson and Lea Ann Coxwell will see patients for a variety of issues, such as respiratory and sinus infections, fever, urinary tract infection, ear infection, joint aches and pains, allergies, bronchitis, colds and flu, headaches, sore throat, rashes and other minor medical needs.
UMMC 2 You is not designed to replace a primary care provider, and does not treat patients with serious illness or injury.
“We don’t do pain management or long-term management of chronic diseases,” Goodson said. “If you have abdominal or chest pain, breathing issues, injuries requiring an X-ray or CT scan, or lacerations needing sewing up, you need to receive immediate hands-on care.
Patients can expect to be seen the same day unless volume is extremely high.
It’s a tremendous time-saver and convenience for employees who find it difficult to leave their desks during the workday and who dread an hours-long wait at a traditional clinic, Davis said. It enables them to make a visit from the comfort of their home or at their private workstation if needed.
“What makes us different also is that we are a Mississippi provider and business,” Davis said. “We do as much as we can to support community providers. If patients need a primary care provider, we help them locate one that is in their own community when appropriate. If a local provider isn’t available, we assist patients in securing care at UMMC if they’re agreeable, and we’re also willing to assist with specialty referrals if they’re needed.”
How UMMC 2 You works: After setting up an account, a patient logs in and is given a list of providers on duty that day and a list of appointment openings. Each appointment covers a 15-minute time slot.
The patient chooses a provider and an appointment time, then will be asked to provide insurance information and a brief medical history. Once the appointment is made, the patient will receive an emailed confirmation.
The patient logs on when it’s time for the appointment to begin, Goodson said. They will be given a prompt to choose either a video or voice call, but UMMC’s program requires them to only select video, she said.
“We go through their visit just as we would if it was in person,” Goodson said. “We get more history on their complaint and come up with a treatment plan. If a medication is required, we will prescribe it and contact the pharmacy of their choice.”
Any written instructions for treatment, plus a written synopsis of the visit, can be posted in the patient’s UMMC MyChart patient portal if they’ve created one.
Sometimes, Davis said, the telehealth team picks up on dangerous underlying health issues, or the need for patients to see a specialist or subspecialist.
“We recently saw a patient who wanted to be seen for her high blood pressure,” Davis said. “We found that she had severe hypertension, and had been to several different providers and placed on several different medications, but it wasn’t working for her.”
Her telehealth provider paved the way for an in-office appointment with a specialist in UMMC’s hypertension clinic, where she received education on how to keep her blood pressure in check. “Within a few months, she was doing fine on her medications. Once she got it under control, she returned to her local primary care provider,” Davis said.
Delivery of reliable health information, including the need to be seen regularly by a primary care provider, is a major component of UMMC 2 You, Davis said. “We’ve noticed that a lot of people using our system weren’t seeing a provider regularly. They might not be getting wellness visits, and they might not understand the importance of that,” Davis said.
“This is another entry into the health care system,” she said. “One of our major goals is to advise patients on the best use of health care resources.”
For state insurance select plan participants, a visit is $10; for base plan participants, it’s $49 until the deductible is met, and then $10 for visits after that.
The new program reinforces UMMC’s mission of promoting a healthier Mississippi.
“Early identification of disease or illness, and the delivery of reliable health education, along with connecting people to quality health care providers ... That’s what we’re all about,” Davis said.
For more information on UMMC 2 You, click here.