Now, get treated for common ailments online

Now, get treated for common ailments online

In a recent Bucks post, “Doctors, Let Me Pay You for E-Mail,” my colleague Ron Lieber said he would gladly pay his family doctors a flat annual fee to be able to e-mail them questions and get a timely electronic response, and he questioned why this isn’t the norm.

Well, it turns out that it’s possible now in one state, Minnesota, to pay $25 and then actually get treated for certain basic ailments online thanks to a just-introduced  yearlong pilot program offered by the health care Park Nicollet Health Services and Zipnosis.com, a start-up in Minnesota.

The service is available for treatment of eight common ailments or conditions: colds, sinus infections, strep throat, seasonal allergies, cold and canker sores, quitting tobacco and bladder and yeast infections.

How it works
Residents of the state who believe they have one of these ailments can register at Zipnosis.com and provide details about their health history and their credit card, debit or health savings account card information. At this point, those patients with chronic ailments like heart disease will be screened out from the online service and directed to come in for an appointment.

Those patients who pass the initial screening then pick which of the eight common ailments they believe they are suffering from and answer a series of questions about their symptoms. This information is then passed along to the doctor in the form of a clinical note. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, doctors at Park Nicollet Health Services will then respond to patients within an hour. Patients are notified via e-mail or text message that the response is ready to be viewed through the Web.
If the patient appeared to have the condition, the doctor would respond with diagnosis and treatment information. The patient would be charged $25. If the doctor believes the patient may be suffering from something more serious, the patient will be directed to set up an appointment and the $25 fee will be waived. For patients, the service means no more having to wait in waiting rooms just to get a prescription when they know exactly what they have.

John Misa, chief of primary care at Park Nichollet, said the service not only makes care more convenient for patients, but also may help the practice earn more revenue. Treating such common ailments online, he said, frees up doctors’ schedules to see more patients with more serious ailments that require more advanced treatment.
Having additional free capacity will also be important when the health care bill starts to take effect and more patients come in for care. In addition, the clinic can have those doctors who are free at the moment respond to the online queries.
Zipnosis plans to be in Northern California by the end of this year, Pennsylvania by early next year and hopes eventually to expand nationwide, said Rick Krieger, Zipnosis’ chief executive and a co-founder of the QuickMedx/Minute Clinic, a nationwide chain of walk-in clinics.

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