Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health on Wednesday launched a virtual urgent-care service with telehealth company MDLive.
The 24/7 virtual urgent-care service will connect patients to clinicians at Dartmouth-Hitchcock through a phone call or video visit, in an effort to avoid having patients travel to an emergency department or physical urgent-care clinic for minor, non-emergency conditions like allergies, bug bites or the flu. Physicians from MDLive's medical group will provide back-up coverage.
MDLive on Monday was acquired by Cigna Corp.
Hospitals experienced a rapid rise in telehealth use in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many executives have spent recent months figuring out how to sustain that momentum and best integrate the practice into their services long-term. Dartmouth-Hitchcock used to average three telehealth visits per week, but in the early days of the pandemic telehealth visits shot up to 2,000 a day, health system CEO Dr. Joanne Conroy told Modern Healthcare in spring of last year.
At the time, Conroy said Dartmouth-Hitchcock was working to "reimagine" its ambulatory strategy amid the pandemic, including a broader use of telehealth.
Researchers are still studying the effect of telehealth visits on healthcare utilization.
Patients who used telehealth for upper respiratory infections were more likely to receive more follow-up care than those who sought in-person care, according to a recent study in Health Affairs. While the study didn't quantify the value of the follow-up care, researchers found that the telehealth cohort had fewer ED visits but more subsequent office, urgent-care and telehealth visits.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock will charge patients $59 for a visit on the new virtual urgent-care service. Patients will have the option to see a clinician on-demand or schedule a visit for later the same day.
The service is available for patients who are privately insured or who self-pay, according to Dartmouth-Hitchcock.
The new urgent-care service is part of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Connected Care and Center for TeleHealth, a program that the health system opened in 2012 to connect patients at nearby facilities with Dartmouth-Hitchcock specialists.