Intermountain Healthcare Inc., Utahs largest healthcare system and one of the states largest health insurers, is expanding its mobile healthcare program.

Intermountain, which operate 22 hospitals in Utah and Idaho in addition to 185 clinics and urgent care facilities that are run by physicians as part of the Intermountain Medical Group, is launching Connect Care, a telehealth and mobile app program that enables patients to schedule digital doctor visits.

Intermountain Health is working with telehealth services provider American Well to provide the technical infrastructure for video doctor visits conducted using a patients mobile device. Intermountain will charge $49 per digital doctor visit. The fee may be reimbursed by some healthcare insurance companies and patients insured by Intermountain. Intermountain insures about 20% of Utahs population of 3 million residents, the health system says.

Connect Care is available by downloading a free app from the Apple App or Google Play store. With the app patients can set up a digital doctor visit over a secure mobile link that is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPPA, which ensures the confidentiality of patient medical records, Intermountain says.

The Intermountain telehealth program is available for patients seeking treatment for minor healthcare problems such as coughs, colds, sinus pain, ear pain, allergies, painful urination, minor rashes or skin conditions, flu-like illnesses, minor musculoskeletal complaints, and gastrointestinal issues.

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Patients with more serious conditions can schedule a telehealth visit but may be referred to another Intermountain Health facility. Not all medical conditions are appropriate for telehealth evaluation and treatment, says Intermountain Connect Care medical director Dr. William Daines. If the provider feels that an in-person evaluation is needed immediately, the provider will be referred to a local in-person clinic and wont be charged for the telehealth visit.

Intermountain, which began piloting Connect Care in February, says telehealth is meant to provide easier ways for patients to see doctors and to expand healthcare services to remote parts of Utah and Idaho not near an Intermountain facility. This means that for many minor medical problems, patients can receive treatment from an Intermountain provider from their home or office without the need to come to an urgent care or doctors office, Daines says.

One aspect of Intermountains new telehealth program that makes it different from other commercial telehealth services is that patients and doctors will have secure access to electronic health records during the digital office visit, Daines says.

The Intermountain telehealth program also lets Intermountain doctors write electronic prescription orders. Patients can then have the prescription filled by the pharmacy already a part of their electronic health record or they can download the prescription to be filled by the pharmacy of their choice. Intermountain providers will be able to instantly access the patients medical history and medications during the Connect Care visit, Daines says. Clinicians who meet with patients in person in the future will also have the details of the online visit available to them.

Since the program was launched in late May patients have scheduled about 1,000 digital doctor visits, Intermountain says. Intermountain also is making its Connect Care mobile health program primarily an app-centered program. Lots of people have smartphones, and apps are convenient to use, Daines says.

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Connect Care is Intermountains latest telehealth initiative. Intermountain also has various telehealth services for aspects of care for cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, pediatrics, womens health and newborn care and wound care.

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