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Mercy Patients Choosing E-Visits to See Doctor Online

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The busiest time of the year is often the time when most of us end up getting sick and it can be hard to carve out the time to go see your doctor.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The busiest time of the year is often the time when most of us end up getting sick and it can be hard to carve out the time to go see your doctor.

A new program at Mercy lets patients visit the hospital online.

Joann Wolf knew she was getting sick.

"It was a sinus infection and I knew what was coming on," Wolf said.

The small business owner would have to close down her shop to go to the doctor and she just didn't have the time.

"It always ends up to be at least an hour of sitting there getting checked in and waiting," she said.

So instead she turned to the E-Visit program at Mercy Hospital.

She doesn't have to put on her coat or get in her car to go to the doctor.

Wolf just visited her doctor virtually over the Internet.

"They got back to me within a few hours and had a prescription sent out for what I had," she said.

Doctor Raj Anand describes how the system works.

"You go through a certain set of questions, it really walks you through, if you say cough it will ask if you have a fever," he said.

He uses this daily with his patients who come down with common illnesses.

"Mainly cough, bronchitis, sinusitis, bladder infections," he said.

I asked if he felt nervous prescribing medication without seeing the patient in person.

"I think if it is serious enough we are not comfortable with it we will not prescribe it," he said.

And he said the service is only for existing patients.

"If it's a new patient and they call for this, we will not do it, this is a patient I have a relationship with," he said.

Wolf said she is comfortable using E-Visits because of her relationship with her doctor.

"I have a good rapport with her which helps," Wolf said.

It looks like empty waiting room seats and exam rooms will be more common at hospitals, as patients begin choosing convenience instead.

For insurance purposes, an E-Visit is considered a regular office visit, so patients who successfully complete an E-visit will be charged a fee that is similar to a co-pay, Mercy officials say.

At Mercy Hospital, the number of patients using the E-Visit program has quadrupled in the last few months.

Cox Hospital also provides an electronic visit service for its patients.

This type of program is not unique to Springfield.

Hospitals across the nation have been adding this technology over the last few years.
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