Virtual doctors: Carena launches in-home digital medical service CareSimple

No, it won’t be a complete replacement for actually seeing a physical doctor. But CareSimple, a new service that provides 24/7 access to doctors via phone and video, might save you an expensive or time-consuming trip to the doctor’s office.

Seattle-based Carena is launching CareSimple today to help patients connect with doctors and nurses 24/7 via phone and webcam. Carena has been in the virtual digital care space serving employers and health systems since 2009, but now for the first time any individual in Washington and California can use the beta CareSimple service.

Patients just need to make an account and will typically speak with a provider within 15 minutes. The service costs $10 per visit and is convenient for those needing medical advice during nights, weekends and holidays. The numbers show that it’s reliable, too — 98 percent of patients report they had their issue resolved with Carena and more than 50 percent state they avoided a trip to the ER.

“In all health care scenarios moving forward two things are certain: healthcare costs paid by individuals and families are going up; and it will be harder to get an appointment when you need it,” Carena CEO Ralph Derrickson said in a release. “We are using well accepted internet technologies to make high-quality, affordable care available on the patients’ terms. CareSimple brings peace of mind and resolution to common medical issues in a world where Skyping with the grandparents happens every day.”

The doctors and nurse practitioners are employed by CareSimple’s medical group and live and work in the Seattle area. Each provider is board-certified and on average has 17 years of medical care experience. They are trained specifically to diagnose and deliver care using phones and webcams.

CareSimple providers can prescribe medications, if appropriate, and deliver a visit summary to a patient’s regular provider to ensure continuity of care. They can also conduct house calls.

Back in June, Carena landed $14 million in fresh financing from Catholic Health Initiatives and others. An operator of 76 hospitals and 40 long-term care facilities in 19 states, Catholic Health Initiatives could provide a significant boost to Carena as it looks to expand its service to health care facilities across the country.