A doctor is just a phone call away

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
By Abbey Khan

So you’re not feeling too hot, but you don’t have time to go to the doctor and it’s not serious enough to go to the emergency room. Still, it’s important you take something to get better faster or to keep it from getting worse. RingADoc, a new service that immediately connects patients to doctors over the telephone, may just be what you’re looking for.

Here’s a Q&A with co-founder Jordan Michaels, who tells us more about this innovative service.

How much does RingADoc cost patients?
It’s a one-time fee of $39 per encounter. So each time you speak to a doctor you pay $39. The patient has a credit card on file that is charged ONLY after they speak with the doctor.

Is this service available by phone 24-7?
Yes it’s available by phone 24-7. So when a doctors’ office is closed after-hours, on the weekend, or during the holidays, they are able to call a doctor. The system runs on a software we developed called TeleThrive that sophisticatedly gauges patient demand and requests doctors to be available accordingly.

Do you connect patients with doctors that are closest to them geographically or is it whomever is available to take the call?
Right now it works on availability, but hopefully with expansion and greater demand in the future we will be able to route a patient based on zip code, which will be fantastic!

How do you screen the doctors to find out whether or not they are a good fit for your system?
The doctors go through the same credentialing they would when applying to work at any other hospital or physician group. They are required to submit all supporting documentations and their licenses are checked with the state medical board, DEA number, etc.

Since your doctors are not their primary care physician and therefore do not know the patient’s medical history, how can they keep from prescribing the patient a drug that may possibly interfere with another medication?
The doctors have access to the patient’s medical history prior to the phone call. They actually are given this information while the patient waits on the line. This all happens in real-time.

When can or should the doctor refuse to treat a patient?
They can decline a call, and the system will automatically try other doctors. This ensures quality to make sure a doctor able and willing to address a patient’s needs receives the call. In summary, it is up to the professional discretion of the doctor, except they are never allowed to prescribe DEA controlled substances, life style drugs, and long term prescriptions.

How can you ensure that patients do not abuse your system to try to get prescription drugs that they may be addicted to?
The system actively monitors itself and doctors are able to screen the calls by listening to the patients’ recorded complaint, medical history, and their most previous encounter on the system before accepting the call. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe DEA controlled substances or lifestyle drugs. They understand the limitations of care by the telephone.

Does your company keep a profile on patients? If a patient tries one doctor for medication but that particular doctor refuses to prescribe it, what will stop them from trying another doctor?
Yes, this is all handled when the doctors screen the calls to ensure quality. They will be able to hear encounter summaries with other doctors.

If a patient was pleased with the doctor he spoke to, can he request to see him in person or switch to him for future treatment?
The patient can request to speak to the same the doctor the next time they call. In terms of seeing them in person, that is up to the patient and the doctor and they certainly are able to speak about that freely during their encounter and if they can agree on this and the doctor is willing to provide office location, etc. then great.

How are you protected, if say, the doctor misdiagnoses and prescribes the patient the wrong medication?
The physicians are part of our professional corporation, Global Medical Networks, P.C., which is covered under a malpractice policy that covers telephonic exchanges.

Right now, RingADoc is only available in California, do you plan to expand to other states?
Yes we plan on expanding to other states shortly. We will also have RingADoc available in Spanish this week!

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