By Hu Meena
Back in the 1930 and 40s, most doctors visited sick patients in their homes with hands-on diagnosis and prescriptions for maladies ranging from a sore throat and the common cold to pneumonia.
Fast forward 80 years through the industrial, information and technology revolutions to the modern digital era. Research, practice and consumer preference shows that the days of the doctor house call are long gone, replaced by visits to a doctor’s office, a local clinic, the emergency room or the hospital.
Today, consumers spend a lot of time traveling to and waiting for a scheduled medical appointment, but they can be more efficient with their time by leveraging telehealth, or connected care, which can save them time and money.
In Mississippi, C Spire and the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), leaders in technology and health care, have teamed up to introduce a new, mobile app that promises to improve access to quick, reliable and convenient health care for more people with minor ailments.
Telehealth is a big deal for Magnolia State consumers, especially the poor and elderly in rural and underserved areas, who have few options and are forced to travel long distances with limited access to transportation. Oftentimes, they go to local hospital emergency rooms out of desperation.
A 2015 American Medical Association study concluded that almost 75 percent of all doctor, urgent care and emergency room visits are either unnecessary or could be handled safely and effectively via telehealth solutions. Clearly, telehealth technology can be one of the answers to this access dilemma.
The C Spire telehealth app is available to any consumer located in the state for download from the Google Play or Apple App stores to any smartphone that runs either the Android or iOS operating systems.
After downloading the app and registering for the service, consumers will be able to quickly and easily make an appointment and connect via their smartphone for a live video session with a licensed UMMC nurse practitioner.
The nurse practitioner can virtually evaluate, diagnose and prescribe treatments for over 20 common, minor medical ailments ranging from coughs, colds, the flu and seasonal allergies to headaches, earaches, sore throats and insect bites.
Video appointments cost $59 per visit and prescriptions are sent directly to a pharmacy in the patient’s area. The service has no contract or long-term commitment. Consumers can easily add dependents and are only charged at the end of the virtual visit.
If the diagnosis confirms that the consumer is dealing with symptoms from a serious or chronic health condition, the individual is directed to their personal doctor, a primary care physician, specialist or local hospital emergency room for immediate help.
C Spire and UMMC are working to expand the program and add private insurance coverage, more medical professionals and facilities across the state as active participants so that consumers get the best quality and most timely care possible to effectively manage their preventative health care.
Technology innovation in health care is a key part of the C Spire Tech Movement, a company effort begun in 2017 also designed to help move the region forward through improvements in broadband access and workforce development.
The company has focused on technology education and getting more young people in software development and IT jobs through coding challenges with elementary and high schools and public-private partnerships that “fast track” hundreds of new academic and computer science opportunities.
C Spire also has been a leader in expanding broadband across its service area, including a ground-breaking residential broadband program begun in 2014, which has dramatically boosted internet access speeds for consumers and businesses.
To learn more about or download and use the C Spire Health app, go to www.cspirehealth.com. For more information about the C Spire Tech Movement, visit www.cspire.com/techmvmt. To learn more about telehealth and the University of Mississippi Medical Center, go to www.umc.edu/Healthcare/Telehealth.
Hu Meena is the chairman and CEO of C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services company.