Walmart to offer doctor visits via BCS Global telepresence

[From InformationWeek Healthcare; for more see ZDNet’s Health blog]

The Doctor Will See You In Walmart

Retailer rolls out telemedicine services that give shoppers access to doctors through videoconferencing technology.

By Nicole Lewis, InformationWeek
June 05, 2012

It’s the weekend and you’ve gotten a nasty cold with a high temperature and need to see a doctor, but you also need to buy milk, eggs, and bread. Walmart’s telemedicine services now give new meaning to the term “one-stop shopping.”

A statement outlining the Arkansas retail giant’s use of telehealth technology indicates that Walmart has engaged BCS Global Networks to provide videoconferencing services in collaboration with Telemed Ventures.

Officials at Telemed Ventures told InformationWeek Healthcare that Walmart recently began a pilot program at its Bensalem, Penn., store that allows doctors to examine patients with minor illnesses. The retailer also plans to offer telehealth services at its supercenter in Willow Grove, Penn., which is currently under construction. Walmart hopes to expand the service to other stores across the country, eventually offering primary care services to millions of Americans at a lower cost than traditional clinics and small physician practices.

BCS Global’s managed visual collaboration tools enable remote video consultations between a patient and doctor through a lifelike, virtual face-to-face video interface. BCS Global’s service enables Telemed to use its Smart Care Doc technology, which provides a reliable and secure visual collaboration platform for patients, nurses, doctors, and healthcare providers.

In an interview, Darrell Jennings, chief operating officer at Telemed Ventures, said Walmart was interested in working with Telemed because of its ability to provide a robust platform along with qualified healthcare providers at an attractive price point, when compared to the expense that Walmart would incur if it hired dedicated doctors and nurse practitioners at Walmart’s clinics. Patients will pay $59 to see a teledoctor, which is approximately 40% less than what similar types of clinics with nurse practitioners are charging, officials say.

Under the agreement, Walmart has hired Telemed Ventures to provide nurses and doctors that are part of Telemed’s network of clinicians. A customer can visit a clinic located within the Walmart store and start the examination process by opening a new electronic health record (EHR). Patients enter their name, medical history, medication history, and information about their complaint. A nurse on staff conducts a preliminary examination that includes taking blood pressure, temperature, weight, and other vital signs before the videoconference session begins.

“We collect the patients’ vitals with devices that are electronically tied to the computer at the clinic and then all those vitals are uploaded into the patients’ medical record in the cloud,” Jennings told InformationWeek Healthcare. “The doctor sees that information during the videoconferencing session and, based on the information, the doctor can make a diagnosis, prepare an electronic prescription, enter notes into the EHR, and if the patient needs further attention, refer a patient to a specialist.”

Jennings also said patients can access records of their visit through a personal health record (PHR) that the system provides. The patient can then access the PHR on a home computer or tablet.

The technology uses a virtual private cloud computing model provided by Amazon that stores patient data and is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant, Aleksey Konovalov, Telemed Ventures’ chief architect, said in an interview.

“We want to make sure that sensitive data such as patient information is transmitted over a secure, encrypted connection and that the information is securely stored and managed [with password authentication codes] that only designated people with certain rights and permissions can have access to,” Konovalov said in an interview.

In a statement, Clive Sawkins, CEO of BCS Global, said, “This innovative service eliminates the patient’s burden of having to travel to out-of-the-way clinics, or sit in waiting rooms anticipating whether their name will be called next.”

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