Carena's model of telemedicine is slightly different because health systems, seeing the success Carena had with large employers, came calling. First came Franciscan Health System, an eight-hospital system headquartered in Tacoma, WA. It contracted with Carena in 2011 to provide its virtual visit service to its employees. Last year, the health system expanded its contract to include anyone in its service area for just $35.
"We tested the Franciscan Virtual Urgent Care with our own employees before expanding it to the public, so we know this model of care delivery works," says Cliff Robertson, MD, Franciscan Health System COO.
Green says the price point is close to the average amount of a co-pay and provides access for patients who would otherwise seek care in a more expensive setting.
Franciscan Health is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives, which led a $14 million round of investing about a year after Franciscan Health and Carena first began working together. The investment was used to expand to other states, and to date, Carena's virtual visits can be done in five states: Washington, California, Illinois, Missouri, and most recently Kentucky. In that state, another CHI-affiliated system, KentuckyOne Health, has launched the same virtual service that Franciscan Health offers.
With the weight of CHI and major employers behind it, Carena is shining a spotlight on telemedicine's reach. And the model is not just a way to reach patients in rural areas. Green says most of Carena's patients are near major metropolitan areas.