iSelectMD, PEIA partnership to provide telemedicine services for over 180,000 members

BRIDGEPORT — More than 180,000 members of the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) will have access to telemedicine services thanks to a recent partnership with iSelectMD.

iSelectMD is a national organization based in Hilton Head, South Carolina, that was founded in 2011.

“We started providing service in West Virginia in 2012 based out of Harrison County,” President Michael Iaquinta said. “We started with the Harrison County employee pool, and we’ve been cultivating a relationship with PEIA for the last four years. We’ve made them aware of our company, and we met with the leaders of PEIA.”

Iaquinta said PEIA sent out requests for proposals to iSelectMD, as well as three or four other national companies, in September. The partnership will become effective for PEIA members Feb. 13.

“I think we’ll be able to save PEIA money because instead of paying for people to go to the emergency room, they can get this done at a cheaper cost,” Dr. Robert Martino said. “It costs a lot less than a traditional visit, but you’re getting the same result a lot quicker.”

In the five years that iSelectMD has provided service in West Virginia, Iaquinta said the company has greatly improved access to care.

“If you contact our call center, a physician will call you back generally within 10 or 15 minutes,” he said. “Our doctors would review your medical history, and they will consult, diagnosis, plan treatment and, if appropriate, give a prescription, which would eliminate an unnecessary visit to a hospital room or to an urgent care center.”

While more severe medical needs would still require physical visits to a physician or to a hospital, telemedicine is extremely helpful in situations such as the flu or sinus infections.

“You would not miss time from work, and you would get better faster, and it would save you money,” Iaquinta said. “It gives them real-time access to care, and we eliminate long wait times and travel time.

“By catching illnesses early, we’re able to provide treatment faster so you’re not sick as long,” he said. “How many times have you not sought out health care because of cost or convenience?”

Telemedicine is not only cheaper from the patient perspective, but Iaquinta said it reduces general medical costs in the industry as well.

“It really reduces traffic in the emergency rooms and urgent care centers,” he said. “There could be a little boy out with there with a broken arm or another patient who significantly needs the resources of an emergency room, but can’t get in because of patients with less serious illnesses.”

Particularly with emergency room visits, the cost can be significant for patients, Martino said.

“If we can prevent someone from going to the emergency room, that will save them $400 to $1,200 a visit,” he said. “Imagine what kind of savings that would be for a statewide population.”

It could reduce statewide spending as well, Iaquinta said.

“For every $1 spent in telemedicine, that is equivalent to $5 spent in traditional visits,” he said. “Where a traditional doctor visit would cost $150 to $300, with a telemedicine visit, the cost never exceeds $47.”

Martino said he has already heard great feedback from patients using iSelectMD.

“After you use it once, you use it all the time. We’ve got testimonials, and patients just love it,” he said. “Patients say their doctor spent more time with them than they did in a traditional visit. You’re talking one on one with the doctor, and you’re not having any distractions.”

Having such technology available in West Virginia is significant, as many parts of the state are rural and have limited access to health care.

“There’s a doctor shortage out there. Our primary care physicians are overwhelmed, and this can take some things off their plate,” Martino said. “Instead of having to get in your car and drive an hour and a half to see a physician, you can just pick up the phone and call.”

Martino said telemedicine is a great answer to questions physicians have asked for years about how to reach those more rural areas.

“It’s also about access, even if we can’t help you,” he said. “If it’s something viral that has to pass its course, at least you know that. Having access to doctors is a big deal.”

Iaquinta hopes this partnership is only the beginning of expanding iSelectMD services in the state.

“We also are introducing legislation to provide this program not only to PEIA, but to all residents in West Virginia,” he said. “With our program, it’s provided to everybody. You don’t have to have a special relationship with a provider.”

West Virginia is at the forefront of this telemedicine trend, as iSelectMD hasn’t expanded into many states at this time. However, Martino said New Mexico has seen great success with the program.

“They’ve done a wonderful job with this, and they have saved the state millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re hoping we can replicate that kind of success here.”

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