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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Me-Visit smartphone app allows patients to have ‘doctor in their pocket,’ developer says

By Feoshia H. Davis
KyForward contributor

Imagine playing with your kids in your favorite park. You accidentally step in a patch of poison ivy. It’s not long until you start to break out, and you know you’ll need that prescription ointment to get rid of it.

What if instead of making a doctor’s appointment, which could take a day or two, you send a note to your family doctor with a picture of the breakout. She’s treated you for poison ivy before and knows just what you need. She sends in a prescription from your local pharmacy, alerting you by smartphone. An hour later you’ve got a treatment plan and a filled prescription in hand.

Sounds pretty convenient, right?

It could soon be that easy for you to take care of routine checkups or minor-to-moderate medical issues. Two Kentucky brothers have developed Me-Visit, a smartphone app that lets doctors treat patients through a smartphone or computer, during or outside of normal office hours, without an in-person meeting.

Steve Thornbury (Photo provided)

“This platform allows patients to have their doctor in their pocket 24-7,” says Steve Thornbury, Me-Visit senior vice president of business development. “If a person is sick with a respiratory infection or allergies or something they’ve visited their doctor with before, they can log on and complete a visit and doctor who will be able to take care of it by smartphone. (The doctor) can send prescriptions to a pharmacy.”

Me-Visit technology developed in Kentucky

Steve Thornbury’s brother Dr. William Thornbury, is the app’s primary developer. Dr. Thornbury is a Central Kentucky family physician and CEO and medical director of Medical Associates of Southern Kentucky. He’s also practiced in rural Appalachia.

The Me-Visit app (which stands for mobile electronic doctor visit) can be downloaded on most computers or smartphones. Doctors or other healthcare providers must purchase the Me-Visit platform before patients can use it, though patients can request the service from their doctor.

“Patients can, and do, go on to invite their doctor to participate. If the doctor is not yet participating, we’ll contact them and say ‘We have so many patients requesting you use this service, would you like to know more about it?’ Then a doctor can sign up for service,” Steve Thornbury says.

Dr. William Thornbury (Photo provided)

Me-Visit patients are expected to have an existing relationship with a provider who knows their medical history. In addition, patients complete a personal health record online during account creation. The form is similar to what you fill out when you first meet your physician.

“It’s very quick. The patient sets up personal health records, then picks their doctor. An email is sent to the doctor’s office to verify they are patient. Then from that point, the patient is ready to use to Me-Visit anytime they want,” Thornbury adds.

All patient-doctor interactions are secure and become part of the patient’s medical record. The process is meant to make those doctor-patient interactions more efficient, safe and convenient.

“This is for the treatment of minor, moderate and chronic disease. Instead of driving to the doctor for a 15-minute consultation, the turn around here is often in less in three minutes. The doctor also has the choice of contacting the patient by phone or in real time by video chat,” he says.

In the bigger picture, Thornbury believes Me-Visit is part of the high-tech solution to lowering health care costs through increased efficiency and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors who use Me-Visit can also respond to issues after hours, potentially cutting down on costly emergency room visits.

After two years of testing Me-Visit, there’s been a marked decrease in per capita patient spending, increase in patient capacity, and a decrease in patients using emergency room and urgent care facilities, Thornbury says.

He sees potential significant savings for states through better managing thier Medicaid populations. Nationally, Medicaid patients are twice as likely to visit the emergency room for primary care as a privately insured patient.

The working poor are also more likely to use the emergency room for primary care, he says. Me-Visit could help elevate that issue.

“For the working poor, their doctor’s office is closed during their time off work, so the only avenue for them is the emergency room,” Thornbury says.

Me-Visit getting attention across the county and the globe

Health care providers across the country are taking a look at Me-Visit. They’ve signed contracts with several major providers. Several in Northern Kentucky, California and Arizona will soon implement the system. Me-Visit also has gotten interest from Louisville, Southern and Central Kentucky.

In mid-March the brothers traveled to New Delhi, India, to present study data and talk more about the potential of Me-Visit globally.

“There is tremendous interest in this in other parts of the world as many countries have built out their 3G and 4G (cellular data capabilities) infrastructure,” Thornbury says.

Me-Visit’s first providers should have their systems up and running within the next month.



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