Care Convene Aims to Make Telemedicine as User-Friendly as Facebook

Jefferey VanWingen is a family doctor who has been practicing medicine for 17 years. Although he’s based in Grand Rapids, MI, he’s also been taking medical missions to India for the past decade. It’s always been his goal to use technology to bridge his physical distance from the Wi-Fi-enabled community he works with in India.

“It seemed like the perfect avenue to utilize telemedicine technology,” VanWingen says.

Little did he know he was about connect with telemedicine in a big way a little closer to home. It was while he was pondering ways to communicate with the clinic in India that he first crossed paths with Chris Bailey, co-founder and CEO of Care Convene, a Michigan-based telemedicine startup that launched in 2014.

At the time, Bailey was developing a digital platform enabling video chat consultations for low-severity health issues. He wanted to find a way to conduct doctor visits via smartphone app that would be faster and more convenient than trying to reach a nurse on the phone or taking a trip to urgent care. Care Convene eventually brought VanWingen on as its medical advisor.

“I challenged them to approach it as patients and not Web developers,” VanWingen says.

Care Convene works by enabling short virtual appointments with doctors and care teams via the use of on-demand, HIPAA-compliant, secure chat and video. Patients can also use the Care Convene app to access their electronic health records, track their physical activity, and get personalized health recommendations.

Patients initiate an eVisit by checking in to the app, requesting the appropriate provider, choosing from one of the conditions listed on a drop-down menu, and describing their symptoms. They can even submit a photo documenting an injury, for example, with their request. A status bar like the trackers used by pizza delivery apps tells the patient how far along the doctor is in the review process.

After the doctor receives a text notification, she logs on to Care Convene to review the patient request, which appears on a dashboard integrated with the patient’s health record. Then, the doctor begins an eVisit—a video or text chat—with the patient, asking additional questions and offering treatment advice. If a prescription is required, the doctor can send it electronically to the pharmacy if allowed, or leave it with the clinic’s reception desk for the patient to pick up. (Here’s a video that goes into more detail about how the platform works.)

Bailey believes one of the company’s key innovations is modeling its platform after Facebook to make it more user-friendly. Another key: Care Convene charges what it calls a “minimal standard transaction fee” per eVisit, but it doesn’t charge a platform fee to patients or providers for eVisit services, which Bailey says is a departure from many other telemedicine vendors. It also makes money on implementation services for physician groups that want additional tech support. Bailey says the company does not plan to sell ads on its app.

“It starts to grow when doctors invite patients to participate,” Baily says. “Our niche is providing the technology to clinicians without an absurd licensing fee.”

VanWingen has seen firsthand the forces that keep doctors from embracing … Next Page »

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