Healthcare is an inherently innovative field. As new technologies emerge, treatments evolve, diagnoses become more accurate, doctors interact with patients differently, and the public can access health information with the tap of a fingertip. Though healthcare has most certainly had some hiccups transitioning to the digital age, as a field it has, more or less, embraced a number of drivers of change to remain both relevant and effective in achieving its ultimate goal: providing care for the general public. While its integration of these drivers is still developing, the internet currently stands as the chief driver of innovation when it comes to interacting with patients.
With the proliferation of self diagnosis via sites such as WebMD, message boards pertaining to certain conditions, and the hotbed of misinformation that is Yahoo! Answers, healthcare providers needed to catch up and offer a solution for patients to get in touch with practitioners without leaving the comfort of home. Enter virtuwell, an online clinic offered via HealthPartners that promises speedy diagnoses for the small fee of $45 (or even less, depending on your insurance).
Think about it: How often have you declared, “I’m sick,” and never known what you are sick with? Ever had a stuffy nose and wondered if it’s allergies or a sinus infection? Needed birth control? Heard your mom say, “go to the doctor,” and rolled your eyes in response?
Launched in 2010, virtuwell is an online diagnostic tool that allows patients to access treatment for simple ailments simply by answering questions pertaining to their health concern. At this juncture, nearly 50 conditions/needs can be treated by using the platform, with a diagnosis and treatment plan arriving within 30 minutes of starting the process. The site has been optimized for mobile use, allowing seamless access across a variety of media devices, and is a cost effective alternative to traditional doctor visits.
By eliminating the need for appointments and avoiding the dreaded waiting room, 100,000+ people have been able to access personal care and doctors have been able to direct their attention to those who need more specialized treatment. Currently available in twelve states, the service’s popularity and expansion show that this kind of care is both wanted and necessary. Whether virtuwell continues to expand into additional markets or other clinics begin to offer similar tools, this innovation is a welcome development for the patient experience and surely for the medical profession as a whole.
Now, listen to your mother and get to the digital doctor!