Health First Virtual Clinic delivers medical care via technology


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Dr. Michael Shapiro is the medical director for Health First Now Urgent Care and he heads the Virtual Clinic. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HEALTH FIRSTThink how wonderful it would be if you didn’t have to deal with traffic to visit the doctor and if you didn’t need to sift through old and tattered magazines while waiting to be seen. 

Nice fantasy, right?

 Actually, it is a reality in Brevard thanks to the Health First Virtual Clinic, which harnesses technology to deliver care for minor medical issues.

Also known as TeleHealth, the service provides patients with an alternative to visiting the doctor’s office for colds, rashes, pink eye, minor infections and other small-scale medical issues that might have otherwise necessitated a trip to the doctor’s office.

Health First launched the service to provide additional treatment options to patients with minor ailments.

“This clinic in ‘The Cloud’ is an extension of urgent care,” said Dr. Michael Shapiro, medical director for Health First Now Urgent Care.

Anyone with a home computer, tablet or smartphone can access Virtual Clinic to be “seen” by a doctor via a service similar to Skype or FaceTime … without getting out of bed. 

“The cameras we use are so good that they allow us to clearly examine a patient’s throat or eye to see what the problem is,” Shapiro said.

To get started, patients log in at HFnow.org to register for a same-day consultation and choose a time for a callback. The coordinator confirms the patient’s identity and eligibility, processes payment and updates medication and allergy information.

Patients can schedule a face-to-face virtual visit with physicians and nurse practitioners from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. Appointments are typically available within an hour.

If medication is needed, the prescription is sent electronically to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. Should the patient need diagnostics such as blood and urine testing, these also can be scheduled electronically. 

Experts see telemedicine as an additional way to better connect patients and physicians.

“It’s a huge trend,” said Shapiro, noting that up to seven million of these clinics are expected to pop up in the United States by 2018, up from 350,000 in 2013.

Health First Virtual Clinic won’t eliminate all visits to bricks-and-mortar medical offices, but through the use of technology it can make it much more convenient to treat routine maladies that pester people.