Kaiser Permanente leaders in the system's mid-Atlantic region were frustrated by long patient wait times in their clinical decision units that handled urgent and short-term observation care.
Dr. Dennis Truong, telemedicine director for the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group mentioned to his mentor, Dr. Jody Crane, then-associate medical director for the region's clinical decision units, that when he was a military doctor, he often discussed cases with long-distance colleagues via Skype. That conversation gave them the idea to offer Kaiser members the option of a video visit with a Kaiser staff physician rather than seeing a doctor in the clinical decision units.
In August 2013, that Kaiser region launched such a demonstration, using video visits conducted by emergency physicians.
Kaiser members have two choices for arranging a video physician visit. Patients may contact the health plan call center and be offered a video visit at home with no co-pay, using their smartphone or computer to see a doctor. Or, they may be offered a video visit at one of the clinical decision units.
As an example, at Kaiser's Tysons Corner location in Virginia, patients are taken to a room in the clinical decision unit where they connect by video with a Kaiser doctor at another of the system's facilities. A camera and a screen are mounted on a podium. The remote examining doctor works with a nurse or clinical assistant who is with the patient, and can aid the doctor by applying a stethoscope or other instruments under the doctor's direction.