On Sept. 3, Middle Tennessee-based Ascension Saint Thomas announced the launch of Ascension Online Care, an online urgent care program which will allow patients in the Greater Nashville and statewide to speak with a doctor without an appointment through a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
“Ascension Online Care is another way to deliver access and convenience,” said Tim Adams, President and CEO of Ascension Saint Thomas. “Consumers and patients now have access to comprehensive care within our trusted network of services, which includes primary, specialty, urgent, emergency and now, online care. We are excited to provide this service as an option so consumers can get the right care at a time and in a setting that is convenient for them.”
The cost for each visit is $49, and the program does not require patients have insurance. According to Ascension—which operates a hospital and medical offices in Southwest Nashville—the online care program works like an urgent care clinic and can diagnose and treat a variety of non-emergency illnesses, including sinus infections, allergic reactions, the flu, strep throat and eye infections.
Ascension Online Care is the newest program to allow patients to receive medical care in their homes. In August, Ascension Saint Thomas announced another program in partnership with Contessa Health called Home Recovery Care, which will allow eligible patients to receive health care treatment in their homes rather than being admitted to a hospital.
Patients are assigned a registered nurse and monitoring and treatment equipment is set up at the patient’s home.
Amber Sims, chief strategy officer for Ascension Saint Thomas, said the option for patients to receive treatment in their homes can help cut down on health care costs as the patient will not require a bed in a hospital facility and billing is more clear-cut. Common illnesses treated at home include asthma and pneumonia, according to Contessa Health. However, she said, not all patients who require treatment from a Saint Thomas facility can participate in the program.
“There’s really strict screening criteria to be able to say that this patient can safely, effectively be managed in the home,” Sims said. “It’s not just clinical criteria that comes into play, but it’s also social criteria and support. Is their home safe? Do they have the support needed? But Contessa brings that level of screening and capability to us that we don’t have today. There’s lots of protocols in place to be able to have those conversations with the patient.”
Sims said that when given the choice between being admitted to the hospital and staying in their home to receive treatment, 93% of patients chose to stay in their homes. Sims said the Home Recovery Care could be a good option for elderly patients with dementia or similar conditions who would rather receive treatment in a familiar setting.
She said options like the Contessa program are consumer-driven, which is not often seen in the health care industry.
“Can you imagine any other industry [where] you sit in a waiting room for two hours? It doesn’t happen, [so] why do we tolerate in health care?” Sims said. “Well, that’s changing. Consumers aren’t tolerating it, and we want to be in and are going to be part of developing best-in-class, world-class solutions.”