Health Care at the Speed of eVisits
ThedaCare links Patients and Doctors Electronically, No Clinic Visit Required
In an age when electronic communication often helps simplify and speed access to information, last spring ThedaCare launched patient eVisits with primary care providers. EVisits do not require patients to go into a clinic to be seen in person by a care provider; rather, patients log on to their MyThedaCare private web account, select what they want to be “seen” for, and answer several questions specific to their ailment. They can even upload a photo to show their doctor their condition.
Within two hours, they will receive a response from their healthcare provider, including a plan of care and a prescription, if needed. Patients can use an eVisit for a limited number of conditions, including acne, pinkeye, diaper rash, influenza, lice, seasonal and environmental allergies, upper respiratory/sinus illness, urinary tract infections, stomach flu, and vaginal yeast infections.
Nathan Grunwald, MD, a family medicine doctor at ThedaCare Physicians-Menasha, was instrumental in developing ThedaCare’s eVisits along with input from a team of 40 fellow physicians. “Patient convenience, cost, and respect for a patient’s time were the three big reasons we developed eVisits,” he said. An eVisit costs $35, less than a visit at a traditional clinic or FastCare, and the service is currently available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“The eVisit format respects a patient’s time in cases where a physical examination is not necessary to diagnose and treat an ailment. It eliminates the need to take time off work for travel to an office where others may be sick, too,” Dr. Grunwald said. He acknowledged that eVisits can help doctors work with patients earlier and more quickly to start them on the road to recovery. “Sometimes a traditional appointment can be an obstacle to asking for help. E-Visits make access a lot easier.”
Upon receiving an eVisit request from a patient, ThedaCare providers access the patient’s electronic medical record to review current prescriptions, drug allergies, and past history. The provider also enters information about the eVisit into the patient’s record. “The patient’s primary care team is responding to eVisit requests,” Dr. Grunwald said, “which means there’s a history there that both the healthcare provider and the patient can trust.”
“What I love about ThedaCare eVisits is that we’ve developed a program for patients that saves them time and money, and they love it,” Dr. Grunwald said. “We get great feedback from our patient surveys.” In 2016, 2,100 eVisits were completed, and 98 percent of patients surveyed found the format to be easy or very easy to use. The same number plan to use eVisits again. The average physician response time to a patient’s eVisit request in 2016 was 36 minutes. Sinus infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) were the top two conditions treated.
EVisits are available to ThedaCare patients who have a primary care provider. If patients do not have a MyThedaCare online account, they can go online to MyThedaCare on thedacare.org and click on “new user”. MyThedaCare allows patients for free to send messages to their doctor’s office, request prescription refills, schedule appointments, view test results, and access their medical history.