Virtual visits provide patients with care from the comfort of their homes

This wasn’t how Terri wanted to spend her weekend.

It was Friday night when she first started noticing signs of a urinary tract infection. She had a busy schedule, and now this recurring condition was threatening to derail her plans. Hoping for quick relief, Terri signed into and initiated an eVisit by answering a series of questions about her symptoms, similar to those she would be asked during an office visit.

“Within hours I received a response, and a prescription was waiting for me at the pharmacy,” Terri said. “By Monday, I was feeling so much better. The whole experience was awesome, and it saved me a lot of time and hassle.”

Providing care with minimal disruption

Michigan Medicine introduced eVisits to its adult primary care patients in early 2018. Terri is one of hundreds of adult patients who have used these virtual visits to receive care plans or prescriptions from their health care providers for non-emergency conditions, including flu-like symptoms, red eye, and sinus problems.

Michigan Medicine (is) looking for ways to be more responsive to what patients want.
—Larry An

Clinicians responding to eVisit requests can access the patient’s health record and review his or her health history. Most requests receive a same-day response. Patients pay $25 for the online visit, which is comparable to the amount charged for an office visit. eVisits are available seven days a week.

“Michigan Medicine and other health systems across the country are looking for ways to be more responsive to what patients want,” said Larry An, medical director for the Telehealth Program at Michigan Medicine. “The greatest advantage is convenience and providing the right care to patients with minimal disruption to their daily lives.”

A growing trend in healthcare

As flu season peaked, so did the number of eVisit requests.

“This past flu season was particularly bad. eVisits enabled patients to stay in their homes and out of the clinics where they could potentially spread the virus,” said Alison Neff, director of Telehealth and Ambulatory Technology. “We are keeping patients out of the emergency room while creating more capacity in our ambulatory clinics so we can care for patients who need to be seen.”

U-M Medical Group leadership conservatively estimates 7 percent of ambulatory care visits will take place virtually within five years and hopes that number will grow to 15 percent over the next decade.

“Telemedicine is the next major technological disruptor in healthcare. It will radically change the way we provide care and result in patients conducting the majority of their healthcare over a mobile smart device,” Neff said. “We are building a world-class telehealth platform that will allow us to scale our services exponentially over the next several years.”

Staying healthy at home

“This should have a huge impact on readmission rates, improve patient health, and lower the cost of care.”
—Alison Neff

The advent of telemedicine and virtual visits is making an impact across Michigan Medicine. The General Surgery Clinic is making follow-up appointments easier for patients who can opt for live video visits with their surgeons after their operations. The TeleStroke program connects Michigan Medicine stroke and neurology experts with patients at other Michigan hospitals to provide real-time stroke diagnoses and care. And patients with a chronic health condition will soon be able to send their vitals to their care providers from the comfort of their homes.

“Our goal is to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital. Patients will be able to receive text reminders to take their medications, send their weight and blood pressure stats remotely, and see their doctor via video visit,” Neff said. “This should have a huge impact on readmission rates, improve patient health, and lower the cost of care.”