Verizon unveils new 'Virtual Visits' platform

New smartphone app will also work on AT&T and Sprint

Verizon this week introduced its Virtual Visits platform, a mobile health program that will allow users to communicate with health care providers and request virtual medical appointments from their smartphones.

According to Venturebeat, Verizon will sell the platform to providers, health insurance companies, and employers; those customers will then offer apps to their patients or employees using the Verizon technology. Users do not need to have Verizon as their cell phone carrier to use the "Verizon Virtual Visits" platform.

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Through the program, patients will be able to request medical appointments with physicians for acute conditions, including colds, flu, or sore throats. In addition, physicians will be able to send prescriptions to patients' preferred pharmacies and provide referrals if they deem more direct medical care necessary.

According to Christine Izui, Verizon's quality officer for mobile health solutions, the program will have an "integration engine" to help convey information gathered during the visit to make it available to patients and their providers. However, the system is not yet able to gather incoming patient information.

Julie Kling, Verizon's director of mobile health, says the Virtual Visits platform is different from that of other telemedicine entities because it was built specifically for use on a mobile device's LTE network rather than Wi-Fi. In addition, she notes the carrier's infrastructure is already HIPAA compliant. 

Kling notes that the program was initially built with health plans in mind, but that since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are "looking for ways to make more revenue" and have expressed interest.

CMS may pay physicians for non-in-person visits

According to Izui, the provider's biggest challenge will be getting consumers used to the idea of video visits. She says, "It's a new product, and customers and patients need to get used to the idea of a video chat," adding, "I think when they do understand what can happen, and they can move with you, with your phone, I think there's going to be great uptake" (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 6/25 [subscription required]; Hardawar, Venturebeat, 6/24; News-Medical, 6/25).

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