FranciscancarenaIf you’re feeling under the weather and need to see a doctor, often times you’ll have to hop into your car and drive to a physical office.

Now, though, one Washington hospital system is offering a way for patients to speak with a medical professional 24/7 using Skype or a phone for $35.

Tacoma-based Franciscan Health System today launched Franciscan Virtual Urgent Care as a way for anyone in the Franciscan service area to receive medical advice without leaving their own home.

The hospital system, which includes seven hospitals and 100 clinics in the Puget Sound area mostly south of Seattle, is partnering with Seattle-based Carena to provide the service. Carena has already offered virtual visits to Franciscan employees and other self-insured companies for the past few years, but this is the first time the company has teamed up with a health system to offer its services to the public.

franciscanlogoThe process is relatively simple. You first give information about yourself and your symptoms, and then are connected with a physician, who can prescribe medications or recommend a follow-up visit at a Franciscan location. Insurance likely will not cover the consultation, which is relatively affordable at $35 per virtual visit and similar to a co-pay charge at physical locations.

Technically, anyone in the U.S. can use the service, but it really only makes sense for those in the Franciscan service area.

carena“If you’re somewhere else, our doctors may not be licensed to prescribe medication in your particular state,” said Scott Thompson, spokesperson for Franciscan. “Or, if you need a follow-up visit at a clinic, it might take us some time to find a place in your part of the world.”

Thompson said that this is the first hospital system in the northwest to offer virtual care to the public.

“In some cases, patients just want to know if they need to go to the emergency room,” said Dr. Ben Green of Franciscan Virtual Urgent Care. “In fact, most of the time our providers are able to keep them out of the emergency room and patients are quite happy about that.”

In June of 2012, Carena landed $14 million in fresh financing from Catholic Health Initiatives and others. The company has offered virtual visits since 2010 and launched its CareSimple platform last year.

This video shows how the virtual visits with Franciscan work:

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  • Greg

    Seems really useful. Might be better just calling this $35 to talk to a doctor by phone and get a new prescription sent to a pharmacy (like for antibiotics) whenever you need to (like on a weekend). By the way, use of “virtual” to describe this seems a bit excessive and might scare off many of might benefit from it (like non-tech folks). But thanks for pointing it out, might use it, definitely looks convenient.

    • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

      Kudos to Franciscan and Carena.

      As to the word “virtual”, that’s a correct use of the term — you don’t actually physically visit the doctor. I think the video makes it pretty clear it’s a virtual visit with a real doctor, not a real visit with a virtual doctor. :-) The Emergency Medical Hologram won’t be invented until the mid-24th century.

  • Mike

    I would pay $35 just for the benefit of not having to leave the house for basic questions. Is this available for people in Seattle that aren’t otherwise customers of Franciscan?

    • Taylor Soper

      Hi Mike, thanks for your comment. I’m reaching out to Franciscan and finding out more details in regard to your question. Stay tuned.

    • Taylor Soper

      Hey Mike,

      As mentioned in the original story, you can technically use this service from anywhere in the country. So, yes, if you’re not a customer of Franciscan you can still pay $35 to get medical advice. Carena offers something similar via its Care Simple program:

      Let me know if you have more questions. Thanks for reading.

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