Verizon's videoconferencing offers virtual doctor visits via smartphone

'Virtual Visits' technology to be sold to health systems, employers

If you're sick with a cold or the flu while traveling, Verizon's new videoconferencing technology could help you reach a doctor for a quick consult from a smartphone or tablet.

The Virtual Visits technology is designed to offer security and high-quality videoconferencing to health systems, employers, hospitals, retail pharmacies and others. Verizon hasn't announced the U.S. healthcare providers that would participate, but is expected to do so in a few weeks. Depending on their insurance, patients could end up paying the cost of a co-pay for the service.< /p>

Physicians, nurses and other clinicians will use a two-factor authentication protocol to join a videoconference, and a patient's medical records will be stored in a secure Verizon Cloud, which is designed to meet federal HIPAA standards for privacy. 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 Verizon's, according to Julie Kling, director of mobile health for Verizon.

"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. "I'm a nurse by background, and I've been on the road many times when I've felt bad, but 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, a patient provides identification and payment information, such as a co-pay, 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 would be far less than a trip to the emergency room or an urgent care center, she said.

Development of mobile healthcare technology has been mentioned as a priority by Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in recent years. While there are some smaller companies offering videoconferencing capabilities with clinicians over desktop computers, Kling said Verizon's approach brings the capability to mobile devices through an app, as well as laptops and desktops via the Web.

"There's 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 healthcare can be managed. This is one of many tools that would help address that concern."

This article, Verizon's videoconferencing offers virtual doctor visits via smartphone , was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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.

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