Ballad Health announces major expansion of its virtual health program

Hank Hayes • Apr 10, 2020 at 5:00 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Ballad Health announced Friday a region-wide, technology-driven virtual urgent care center for on-demand care to patients from the comfort of their homes.

Ballad has been providing telehealth technology in 108 schools throughout the region, in addition to telehealth technology access to Niswonger Children’s Hospital in every emergency department throughout the Ballad system.

Connected Care Virtual Urgent Care

The Connected Care Virtual Urgent Care Clinic offers access to care for adults and children experiencing illnesses, such as a cold or flu, eye infections, sinus infections, stomach or gastrointestinal illness, heartburn or acid reflux, minor skin conditions, sore throat, headaches and more. However, it does not fully replace the need for in-person physical examinations and some consultations such as those for strep or flu, or those that might require a referral for a visit to a local clinic for testing or to confirm a diagnosis. The Virtual Urgent Care Clinic is not a replacement for emergency services in the event a patient is experiencing life-threatening symptoms, in which case the patient should call 911 or immediately get to an emergency department.

Ballad has 17 urgent care centers, but will temporarily close six beginning April 13 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Flat fee telehealth

This technology expansion enables telehealth connectivity with a flat cash fee of $30, which includes a visit with a health care provider, an appropriate diagnosis and a prescription, if necessary. This $30 cash fee applies regardless of insurance coverage and will not count toward a deductible, Ballad officials said.

“During this particularly difficult time, when people are concerned about physical distancing, Ballad Health chose to expand our access points virtually and to price them exceptionally low to ensure people can access urgent care when needed,” said Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine. “As we begin to assimilate our new Epic technology platform over the next several months, we anticipate connecting even more closely with our patients as they have an increasing amount of control over their health care from their fingertips. We anticipate some very exciting new technology applications that will make the delivery of care easier for doctors and patients.”

How to schedule a visit

To schedule an appointment with the Virtual Urgent Care Clinic, call (423) 224-3950 to speak with a patient service representative. The Telehealth Urgent Care Clinic is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Connected Care utilizes VisuWell, a cloud-based, virtual health platform that gives patients the ability to connect directly to their health care provider using a web-enabled device, such as a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The device must have a front-facing camera and microphone. Patients will also need an active email address and internet access to use the Connected Care services.

To learn more about the Virtual Urgent Care Clinic, visit www.balladhealth.org/virtual-urgent-care.

Expanding telehealth to providers

Ballad also announced Friday that more than 300 primary and specialty care providers are now available through its Connected Care Telehealth program, giving existing patients the ability to access their doctor and health care team without having to travel or be seen in person.

Debbie Voyles, corporate director of Virtual Health at Ballad, said the expansion of Connected Care’s Telehealth offerings with these providers will be especially important to patients living in rural areas and vulnerable patient populations, such as those who have pre-existing conditions.

“The expansion of Connected Care Telehealth now gives patients access to certain physician specialties, such as oncology and palliative care, that previously weren’t available through telehealth,” Voyles said.

The service is available for school-aged (age 4 and up) and older children — not infants or toddlers.

The cost of a telehealth primary or specialty care visit is the same as a traditional office visit. Uninsured patients should contact their health insurance provider to determine what that cost might be.

Uninsured patients will be billed the same discounted rate, based on their income, as an in-person visit, and Ballad’s charity and discount policies will apply.

To learn more about the Ballad Health Connected Care Telehealth, visit https://www.balladhealth.org/connectedcare.

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