Virtual doctor visits may help patients save time and money

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

With a number of health issues, B.J. Romaine doesn't take his health care lightly.

"I have had a kidney transplant, I turn out to be bipolar, I have Parkinson's," he said.

But he said when costs went up, and face time with his doctor went down, he was ready to try something new.

"So I think we need to look at the alternatives," Romaine said.

He chose to join a service called NutreaLife, one of a number of companies now offering virtual doctor visits via phone, Web and even apps.

Dr. Joe Eyring, CEO of NutreaLife, said by using the app, a physician is just a few questions away.

"I think the key is that you have 24/7 access to physicians and not only that, you can actually choose your physician," Eyring said.

He said the idea is to tackle problems in today's health care system.

"What we really try to do is provide a convenient, cost-effective and consistent approach to accessing health care," Eyring said.

Individuals pay $11 a month and families pay $15 for unlimited e-visits -- something that was very attractive to Romaine.

"It is relatively inexpensive for my budget and I live off Social Security," he said.

Romaine said it was as easy as picking up the phone.

"She told me a doctor would call me and he called me within 15 minutes," he said.

To speed up the process, you should have a list of your health conditions and medications ready. They will ask about those.

Eyring said e-visits are ideally suited for many ailments.

"The allergy problems, the stuffy nose, the colds, the eye problems, they have some unknown coughs, they can get those all taken care of pretty easily through the system and, you know, that is about 70 percent of the things people go to the ER for," Eyring said.

Dr. Robert Groves, vice president of Health Management at Banner Health, has watched the use of telemedicine grow. Among other things, Banner uses uses it to visit chronically ill patients.

"What a lot of people don't recognize is that 90 percent of the information we need comes from looking at the patient, literally visually looking at the patient, and asking questions," Groves said. "That translates very well."

Romaine said he felt perfectly comfortable with the visit and the diagnosis, and believes it could be an alternative for others, as well.

"But if you don't try it, there is no way you are going to be able to compare it to what you are presently getting," he said.

Eyring said subscribers can access physicians anywhere in the U.S. There are also services to save on prescription drugs.

Groves said he expects the idea of e-visits to continue growing.