Seeking what its promotional material calls a "revolution in the patient-physician relationship," Medem, the online communications hub supported by 44 medical societies, has begun a nationwide push to convince physicians to consult with patients via the Internet--for pay.
Medem launched Online Consultation--its trademarked name for the secure, Web-based, pay-per-episode physician consultation service--with 200 physicians and 2,000 patients in May, then rolled it out nationally June 17 at the annual AMA meeting in Chicago.
"This is better access to information you want," says Dunbar Hoskins, M.D., chairman of Medem and executive vice president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
He says Medem was founded two years ago to improve healthcare communications to patients.
The San Francisco-based venture now hosts Web sites for 83,000 physicians, about 8,000 of whom have enabled secure messaging functions.
With surveys suggesting that patients are clamoring for convenient ways to reach doctors, state and specialty medical societies behind Medem are encouraging the notoriously technology-averse medical profession to give the public what it wants by offering Online Consultation, backers say.
Patients can log onto a physician's Medem site, then enter credit card or other payment information before sending a request. Physician users, who set their own charges, may choose to override the payment mechanism for simple requests.
"The routine things that normally would be done on the phone with no charge, I would anticipate certainly in my own practice are not going to be charged for:
prescription requests, scheduling requests, quick questions, quick follow-up on labs and that sort of thing," says cardiologist Michael Kienzle, M.D., chief technology officer at the University of Iowa Health System in Iowa City.
According to Kienzle, Medem is suited for academic medical centers because they tend to serve a wide geographic area.
"This type of messaging system is very well positioned for what I believe is the model for the future," Kienzle says. The goal is "a clinic in every home."