Verizon to add mobile videoconference links to clinicians for treatment of colds, flu

If youve ever been sick with a cold or the flu on a business trip, Verizons new Virtual Visits videoconferencing technology could help quickly reach a clinician from a smartphone or tablet.

The technology is designed to offer security and high-quality videoconferencing to health cae networks, employers, hospitals, retail pharmacies and others.

Patients may be charged a co-pay for the service, though Verizon has yet to identify providers who are interested in offering the service in the U.S. That may come as soon as a few weeks.

Physicians, nurses and other clinicians will use a two-factor authentication protocol to join a videoconference, and a patients medical records will be stored in a secure Verizon Cloud that meets federal HIPAA privacy standards. All the data is encrypted during the call and while it is stored in the cloud.

The service will be mobile-centric and will run over any carrier network, not only Verizons, according to Julie Kling, director of mobile health for Verizon.

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This is live video and provides an alternative to an emergency room or urgent care center for acute conditions like the cold and flu, Kling said in an interview. Im a nurse by background and Ive been on the road many times when Ive felt bad. It would be nice to have a face-to-face conversation with a doctor, instead of a call, from most anywhere, even from the train.

Once a connection over the Virtual Visit is established, the patient provides identification and payment information as well as a few symptoms on a check-off list, before the actual video connection launches.

If a prescription is required, the clinician can order it be sent to the nearest pharmacy.

For providers and patients, the cost of a Virtual Visit will be far below a trip to an emergency room and even less than an urgent care center, Kling said.

Development of mobile health care technology has been mentioned as a Verizon priority by CEO Lowell McAdam in recent years.

While some smaller companies now offer videoconferencing capabilities with clinicians over desktop computers, Kling said Verizons approach brings the capability to mobile devices through an app, as well as to laptops and desktops via the Web.

Theres a shortage of primary care in the U.S. and consumers want more convenient ways to access healthcare, Kling said. We believe strongly that the rising cost of health care can be managed. This is one of many tools that would help address that concern.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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