JACKSON • Mississippians can now have an urgent care clinic in their pocket.
C Spire and the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center have launched a mobile app that offers live video visits to diagnose and treat minor medical problems.
“It’s a new world,” said C Spire senior telehealth manager Jack Bobo. “Medical care can go to people where they are.”
The C Spire Health app can be used by anyone in Mississippi, regardless of cell phone carrier. The medical care will be provided by Mississippi licensed nurses practitioners and doctors via video chat. No insurance is required; the visits will cost $59.
C Spire and UMMC leaders believe the app will be particularly helpful to Mississippi residents in rural areas who must travel long distances for health care and older adults with mobility issues, as well as convenient for busy families.
“This will benefit consumers that have few options to access the health care system,” said Kevin Cook, chief executive of the UMMC Health System.
The program, which had a soft launch three weeks ago, is meant to offer treatment for common, non-emergency conditions, including flu, colds, seasonal allergies, strep throat, sore throat, urinary tract infections, earaches, nausea, headaches, poison ivy and poison oak and insect bites.
“It’s not a substitute for relationship-based patient care,” Bobo said. “It gives a lot of people immediate access to care.”
To access the health services, people will download the app, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, register, answer basic health questions and enter a credit card. Anywhere in Mississippi where people have a smartphone, tablet or computer with a webcam and strong internet access, they can use the health app for a telehealth visit.
They will be able to see the UMMC clinicians available and choose an available appointment. Appointments will be available 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. They will be closed Sundays and holidays.
If the nurse practitioner or doctor decides they need a prescription, it can be sent to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. If the clinician feels the person is dealing with a serious or chronic health condition, the patient will be directed to their primary care provider, a specialist or local emergency department.
“We are committed to ensuring that patients get the best quality and most timely care possible,” Cook said.
Initially, the calls will be handled primarily by nurse practitioners at the UMMC Center for TeleHealth, but UMMC physicians have signed on to handle overflow calls. Eventually, C Spire anticipates they will be able to expand the group of providers taking the calls.
“The hope is it will grow and we will keep adding doctors and clinicians,” Bobo said.
The program has been in development for about two years. UMMC has one of only two accredited Telehealth Centers of Excellence. It has pioneered a number of telehealth services, including remote monitoring of intensive care units and connecting hospitals with UMMC specialists.
The app meets privacy and security regulations for medical information. While C Spire provides the technology, it does not have access to any medical or personal information. That is only available to UMMC.
Telehealth has been growing in the state. Hospitals and emergency departments have used telehealth services to connect with radiologists and neurologists when they aren’t available locally.
North Mississippi Health Services offers telehealth visits with specialists through its larger clinic system. Patients visit the closest NMMC clinic for the telehealth visit, and nurses and other trained health professionals assist with the visit using special medical equipment that allows the specialist to hear heart beats, lungs and look inside ears.
National companies, like Teledoc, are offering urgent care video visits via apps in Mississippi, but they are primarily using out-of-state clinicians. The C Spire Health app will use Mississippi licensed clinicians.
“Our goal is to utilize technology to improve the lives of Mississippi in many facets,” Bobo said. “Health care is obviously a big one of those.”