Penn State Health announced this week that a subscription-based virtual care service, currently in beta with employers and educational institutions in central Pennsylvania, will expand access to patients statewide later in the year.
WHY IT MATTERS
Through the new service, called COMMpanion, members can call or message two physicians, three nurse practitioners and a team of nurses and health navigators to get their questions answered and access health coaching and care navigation.
As part of program testing, Penn State Health has been offering COMMpanion services to students in the medical, graduate and physician’s assistant programs at Penn State College of Medicine and their dependents.
Students are eligible for a reduced subscription price of $5 per month while coverage for a dependent spouse or significant other is available for $9.99 per month.
“We are pleased to be partnering with COMMpanion to offer our students easy access to high-quality care with flexibility to suit their unique schedules and needs,” said Cassie Farrelly, chief operating officer at the College of Medicine.
Penn State Health says the service will enhance the patient experience beyond what is traditionally available in an in-person clinic.
The new subscription-based telehealth program also expands the system’s virtual care offerings.
The existing Penn State Health OnDemand program includes urgent care and some specialty care services while its virtual intensive care unit provide remote access to intensive care clinicians 24/7, regular patient check-ups and remote patient monitoring technologies that can alert care teams to urgent situations.
THE LARGER TREND
With the onset of COVID-19, health systems have been looking to digital tools to improve patient engagement, clinical care and patient outcomes.
University Hospitals uses automation to manage care for people with chronic conditions, like asthma, diabetes and congestive heart failure.
The virtual care system has become a multi-use digital health tool, according to Dr. Brian Zack, the Cleveland-based system’s medical director for digital health and associate chief medical officer at Ahuja Medical Center.
The screening tools and automated chats help alleviate physician burdens and patients like the chats, Zack said.
“Automating tasks that are routine and time-consuming enables frontline workers to focus on what they do best: providing medical care and emotional support,” he told Healthcare IT News in February.
“It also boosts their own feeling of connection with patients and their families, and increases professional satisfaction.”
“These technologies also help health systems develop deeper patient relationships by increasing the number of empathetic, helpful, trusted touchpoints they have with their patients, which strengthens loyalty and retention,” Murray Brozinsky, CEO of Conversa Health, which now is part of telehealth vendor Amwell, said last year.
ON THE RECORD
“It’s important to provide much-needed primary care where it’s most convenient for our patients,” said Chris LaCoe, vice president of virtual health at Penn State Health in a statement. “Subscribers will be able to connect with a provider within minutes, and keep in touch as often as necessary through the text and call functions.”
Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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