Most people think of video platforms when they think of telemedicine visits with healthcare providers. But one provider has found that chat is easier and just as effective.
Kaiser Permanente Colorado was looking to reduce unnecessary ER visits by its members when they tried out a text chat platform. Even though video has become somewhat the standard for virtual doctor visits, Kaiser learned that the chat platform was easy to use and appealing to its patients.
Kaiser’s platform is called Chat With a Doctor. It is offered as an option when a patient visits the main website or goes to book an appointment. If a patient chooses the chat option, he or she is connected directly to a doctor – there is no intermediate screening. The chat service allows for photos to be uploaded but not video. The doctor assesses simple conditions and can recommend treatments or prescribe medications. If the patient’s condition needs further evaluation, the doctor will connect the patient to a staff member to schedule an in-person appointment.
At this time, 100-200 patients per day are “seen” via the chat service. About two-thirds of the visits can be dealt with completely during the chat session. Patient satisfaction with the chat platform has been high. Dr. Ari Melmed, an ER physician at Kaiser Permanente Colorado who heads the Chat With a Doctor program, says the high levels of patient satisfaction stem from being connected directly to a doctor. He says, "[Patients are] just not used to having instant access to a physician. It’s just unprecedented in most people’s healthcare experience. Our satisfaction is through the roof.”