MDLIVE provides the next best thing to a house call

When MDlive, a telehealth service for Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS) employees, launched at the beginning of March, Kate Baron couldn't wait for the opportunity to use it. The clinical integration coordinator and mother of four children under age 16 said she immediately saw how telehealth could meet the more routine healthcare needs of her family. That opportunity came within days when her son developed a bad cough along with congestion and a stuffy nose. Vacillating over whether to send him to school or to keep him home, Baron pulled out her phone instead of a box of Kleenex.

"Within three minutes of calling MDlive, we ‘saw' the doctor," Baron said. "What I appreciated was that the doctor didn't try to make it into something it wasn't or overprescribe for my son's symptoms. He listened, asked questions and recommended that we try holistic treatment methods like a steam shower for the congestion. He said to call back or see our own doctor if the symptoms didn't resolve after seven days."

MDlive is part of the medical benefit plan for YNHHS benefits-covered employees and their covered dependents. The service provides 24/7/365 access to board-certified physicians by secure phone, video or email for non-emergent conditions. Most patients, such as Baron and her son, are seen within 10 minutes. In its first two months with YNHHS, MDlive fielded 124 physician consultations from employees. All, save one via video, were by phone.

Based in Florida, MDlive's network of board-certified physicians extends across the United States to create on-demand availability of medical professionals. Many of MDlive's physicians are licensed to practice in multiple states. Currently, four Northeast Medical Group physicians are seeing patients via MDlive: Leonard Calo, MD; Shawn Cole, MD; Jolanta Lukawski, MD; and Nidhi Shah, MD. Another 10 physicians are going through the credentialing and onboarding process.

Benefits-eligible employees should activate their accounts to set up a profile with a user name, password and basic information so that the service is available when they need it. Activation takes only a few minutes at the MDlive website. "The website is user-friendly. If you can set up a Facebook account, you can do this," Baron said.

Account activations were strong in March, with 964 people (primary beneficiaries and dependents) registering for the service when it first became available. Registrations decreased in April, the second month of the service, with 291. MDlive expected to see a dip after the first wave of publicity, which included a home mailing, newsletter articles, flyers and workstation monitor screensavers.

As Baron noted, the cost of the consultation is reasonable — $15 for Advantage Plus Plan members and $20 for Advantage Plan members — and not as expensive as a visit to the urgent care center or emergency department. "I'll definitely use MDlive again," she said. "It's convenient, affordable, and for me, eliminates the hassle of taking the time from work to take the kids to the pediatrician when they have symptoms that aren't life threatening."