(05/14/14) - You can Skype or Facetime with the people you love, so why not your doctor? Virtual visits are becoming the new "house call".
From 37 miles away, 92-year-old Jack Taugner is able to meet face-to-face, via the Internet, with his doctor - without leaving home. With the touch of a button, Jack, who suffers from hypertension, stage four kidney failure and anemia, connects through an 'iPad-like' device for a remote, routine appointment.
"We hope it's the way of the future. We think this is what health care for the older, sicker patient is going to look like across the world," says Dr. Edward Perrin, of Banner iCare.
In one of the largest retirement communities in Arizona, 136 seniors have signed-up to put these virtual house calls to the test, including Jack and daughter, Marcia, "I could breathe easy when I walked out the door knowing that there were a team of people to be with me and dad."
Along with the Facetime capability, the pilot program, called Banner iCare, can fill prescriptions through the same tablets used for virtual visits. Patients even also have their vitals checked at home and transmitted, through the tablets, to a command center.
"When I explain it to patients, they say 'Why are you doing this?' And I say, 'Well, we expect to save money and keep people healthy this way,'" said Dr. Perrin.
The program is less than a year old, and the hope is that patients will find it offers not only convenience, but better overall care, says Perrin, "We have many stories of catching things earlier."
Jack says the technology has provided peace-of-mind, and he says was easy to learn, "elementary, it was simple."
These virtual house calls come at no additional cost to patients or insurance companies and banner health is hoping to expand the program to 500 patients by this summer.