Virtual health care

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sentara announces foray into online video, phone consultations

Sentara Healthcare has announced a partnership with online health care delivery services and software provider MDLIVE, for consultations with patients via telephone and online video throughout Virginia.

Real-time consultations will be delivered with an established network of physicians. Under the deal, Norfolk-based Sentara Healthcare has taken a “first-of-its-kind” equity stake in the private Sunrise, Fla.-based firm, according to a press release.

“Health care is changing due to a variety of factors, including advances in digital technology, physician shortages, increased access to insurance and high deductible plans, decreased reimbursement and patient population management needs,” Sentara CEO David Bernd stated in the release.

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“This collaboration expands access to care to hundreds of thousands of residents in our core and neighboring markets as well as offers them an alternate delivery option. And with an equity stake in MDLIVE, we become not just another client, but rather a partner focused on paving the way for future advances in virtual healthcare delivery.”

The partnership will increase Sentara’s patient base when more than one million Virginia residents get health insurance in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, the release states.

MDLIVE, already available to consumers via, will be available with the Sentara option from October, and as part of an additional benefit in 2013 to Sentara employees and members of selected Optima Health plans, the release states.

The MDLIVE virtual consult platform will connect patients directly with a licensed Sentara or partner physician, for the diagnosis of low-acuity illnesses such as allergies or a urinary tract infection.

Appropriate care will be provided, including prescriptions, and patients with more serious conditions will be referred to a care facility as appropriate, the release also states.

Where prescriptions are necessary, MDLIVE connects to over 60,000 pharmacies, sending prescriptions electronically, according to the release.

“The marriage of MDLIVE’s state-of-the-art virtual consult platform with high-quality care provided by Sentara Healthcare’s established regional network of physicians, hospitals and other facilities is unprecedented in its scope and reach,” MDLIVE CEO Randy Parker said.

“Our partnership with Sentara empowers us to create a model for the future of virtual access to healthcare systems across the country.“

One of MDLIVE’s board members is former Apple CEO John Sculley, who hailed the agreement the Sentara as a giant leap forward.

“We are at a transformational moment in healthcare driven by the demand for quality care and access and the capabilities of new technologies,” Sculley said.

“The partnership between MDLIVE and Sentara Healthcare sets the stage for expanding access to new modes of healthcare delivery that can benefit patients, the healthcare industry and the nation.”