Ever feel a common cold coming on — or some other minor, garden variety health concern for that matter? Or turn your ankle playing basketball?
You have a pretty good idea what the problem is, but you need a doctor to confirm it and prescribe medicine. The most painful part, though, may be the doctor visit: the traffic, the parking, that wait . . . then the traffic again.
If you can relate, maybe you should do what Dean Setiono did — try telemedicine.
Setiono’s City of Houston health benefits plan is with Kelsey Seybold. He said he remembered seeing something about Kelsey’s telemedicine plan several months ago when he was feeling under the weather.
“I had a cold and wondered if I should see a doctor or not,” recalled Setiono, a Storm Water Quality supervising engineer with the Houston Permitting Center. “I thought, well, let’s give this a try.”
He’s glad he did. And he’s not alone.
Telemedicine is growing on people. The Wall Street Journal has reported that telemedicine is increasingly popular in the U.S. and around the world, driven by faster internet connection speeds.
Locally, City of Houston employees are at the forefront of Kelsey Seybold’s growing year-old program. Internist Dr. Donald Aga leads Kelsey’s telemedicine program. He said it features online e-visits and video visits.
“What’s most commonly being used are the e-visits,” Aga said. “And, actually, the City of Houston currently is our No. 1 user of e-visits out of all the clients we have. It’s been pretty well subscribed to by you guys, which is really good.”
Of Kelsey telemedicine’s more than 2,300 e-visits since September 2016, over 1,000 are patients with City of Houston benefits.
“These e-visits are what I would call simple but urgent type of conditions. Typically not real complex type of care,” Aga said. “When we started last September, this was a big way for us to take care of people very quickly for cold and flu, bronchitis and those kinds of things.”
Kelsey telemedicine is set up to handle appointments for allergies, back pain, cough, cold, heartburn, pinkeye, sinusitis (inflammation of nasal sinus), urinary tract infection and vaginal discharge.
People who log on for e-visits indicate which condition they need treated, complete a very brief online questionnaire about the health issue and pay for the service.
“It’s a very quick and rapid turnaround for these kinds of conditions. Our goal is that we’re going to respond to the patient, have a diagnosis and a treatment plan within one hour,” Aga said.
“The benefit we have on our end is that we have their electronic medical records and the patient’s chart,” he added. “We can see what medications they’re taking, what allergies they have, if they’re had this condition before, how was treated. It gives us the advantage of having a lot of data and information, to be able to see what the problem is and to solve it pretty quickly.”
Kelsey’s telemedicine program is evolving, too. Aga said they continue to add doctors and physicians’ assistants to handle e-visits and video visits.
All of that produces a high level of customer satisfaction. Aga said more than 90 percent of e-visit patients and almost 100 percent of video visit patients report being satisfied.
“It’s very rare to get a complaint because they’re so happy that they didn’t have to go anywhere,” Aga said.
Count Setiono among the satisfied customers.
“I’m happy with it,” he said. “I would definitely recommend it.”