Mayo offers online diagnoses, prescriptions

Mayo Clinic Health System is offering its patients a new way to get the right diagnosis without ever leaving their homes.

For Mayo patients such as Kate Weis, it’s not always easy to visit the doctor in person when they’re not feeling well.

For example: “If I’m busy at work and have an allergy flare up,” she said.

But Mayo Clinic Express Care Online gives her another option. Mayo patients can now access a virtual visit through a smart phone or computer, and answer a questionnaire for a number of conditions, from a sore throat to a cold or the flu.

“What it’s going to do is take off something we call low-hanging fruit in medicine: sinusitis, colds and coughs,” Dr. Paul Molling said.

Mayo Physicians such as Molling hope it will give them more time to treat more critical conditions, while still providing virtual patients the care they need.

“You go through the form, and in one hour we’ll have a response and care plan set up for you,” he said.

Real doctors still provide the diagnosis and a potential prescription for the virtual visit, and if they determine patients need to come into the clinic, the $49 fee for the e-visit is waived.

“I can’t think of anything other than the doctor going to the person’s house that would be any more convenient than this,” said Mike Eckstein, director of marketing and sales.

Eckstein said $49 is generally less than the cost of a regular doctor visit

“I think it’s a safe bet to say we’re going to save people three times the money,” he said.

Besides saving money, Weis said it’s also about saving time and effort better spent toward just getting better.

“It’s nice to have to avoid going out, potentially sitting in a waiting room if it’s an urgent-care thing,” she said.

According to Mayo, this online service can be used for children, as well, as long as they’re 18 months or older.

Some insurances do cover the express-care online visit, including a Mayo insurance provider, Health Tradition Health Plan.

According to a statement, Gundersen Health System began offering e-visits for common ailments to a limited patient population in June of last year.

Gundersen e-visits will be available to additional patients later this year.