New York-Presbyterian Hospitals, which includes academic centers like Columbia and Cornell, have a launched a digital health platform that will provide services including virtual consults, urgent care visits, and second opinions for patients.

The push by major health systems, particularly tertiary hospitals and academic medical centers, to deliver services digitally has accelerated in recent years. We talked recently about a similar program launched out of the University of Southern California where virtual clinics have begun launching where medical experts can provide consultations. They’re even using AI-powered avatars to provide on-demand & personalized answers to health questions from patients.

NYP OnDemand will provide a variety of services along those lines as well as some novel programs. Some of the expected offerings will include virtual second opinions for patients as well as inter-hospital consultation services with experts at Cornel and Columbia.

In addition, they’ll be piloting a program to offer virtual visits to patients who show up in the emergency department but perhaps don’t have an emergent issue. Patients would get the usual initial screening and triage, then could be offered a virtual consultation with a physician to address their problem. Given ongoing challenges with overcrowding in emergency departments, this program could offer an interesting approach to helping expedite care rather than just having people sit in waiting rooms for 12 hours.

In addition, they’ll also begin offering many patients the option for virtual follow up visits. It’s not hard to imagine the value that could offer to patients, who would be spared some disruption to their lives, especially when it comes to specialists who may be located a good distance away. Of course, you lose the physical exam and the opportunity to continue to build the relationship through an in-person interaction. On the latter point, as more of our social interactions move into the digital space anyways, I suspect that’ll be less of an issue. And some of the losses in terms of the physical exam could be mitigated by reliable digital health devices like validated blood pressure cuffs or in-home diagnostics like connected otoscopes. And that it would be offered by a longitudinal clinician could offer some important advantages over the virtual doc in a box services that have taken off in recent years.

Particularly for the latter two services, I hope that part of this program includes prospectively evaluating their effectiveness as well as risks and sharing that data publicly as USC has committed to doing. Only with that data in hand can we determine in the long-term how best to implement these services more broadly across the health system so that they improve quality and reduce costs.

Source: Press Release