The Future is Nearly Here

Patient Portal Will Soon Offer Virtual Visits


Dr. Kulbir Bajwa

When patients of NorthBay’s Center for Primary Care first signed up to use My NorthBay Doc in 2012, they were assisted—electronically speaking —by the care team that included their doctor, an allied health professional and a medical assistant.

Anyone on the team could answer their e-mail, help them schedule a visit and provide links to some test results. Those were just baby steps. Today, radiology and pathology reports are immediately available for patient review. (Just a few months ago, a 72-hour wait was typical.)

And if Dr. Kulbir Bajwa has her way, by the end of 2016 patients will be able to conduct an e-visit (using e-mail technology to chat) and even schedule a virtual visit with their physician using video technology similar to Skype.

Digital technology is creating new opportunities for patients and NorthBay Healthcare to connect.

The patient will enter a virtual “room,” and wait for the physician to begin the meeting. A smart phone or a computer with a camera are all that’s needed. “We’re trying to work out the payment details,” explains Dr. Bajwa. “We’ll be testing it out to see what the best practices might be. I suspect we’ll have doctors set aside blocks of time to handle the virtual visits.”

A similar work plan may be in order for doctors to handle electronic visits—basically arranging for a time that the physician and patient could chat via secure e-mail. “Obviously it would have to be for simple conditions that could be managed through messaging, and not something that the physician would have to see in person to make a diagnosis,” she points out.

More than 13,000 patients—about 33 percent of those who use NorthBay’s Center for Primary Care—already have signed up for My NorthBay Doc.

“As an industry, healthcare has been slow to adopt digital technology and create a more convenient experience for patients,” says Sarah Jewel, director of Business Development. “Yet consumers expect that making a healthcare appointment and similar transactions should be as easy as online banking or booking travel. People want ready access to their personal health information.”

Digital technology is creating new opportunities for patients and NorthBay Healthcare to connect, she adds, noting, “It’s not the right solution for everyone, but as we expand what we offer through My NorthBay Doc, we will see many more patients using it.”

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