UnitedHealth Group to provide telemedicine service to Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines’ core business is to physically transport passengers from one location to another. But when it comes to doctor visits, Delta employees can stay right where they are.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) said Thursday that Delta will become the first company in the United States to use its OptumHealth NowClinic program. The service, initially available to 10,000 employees in Minnesota, allows workers to “see” doctors via the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Using technology created by American Well, a Boston-based software company, employees can connect with hundreds of doctors from five physician networks through webcams and live computer chats. Doctors can access patient information through Microsoft HealthVault or UnitedHealth’s own databases. Patients can also enter information into the system.

With a credit card, patients pay $10 for every 10 minutes they spend with a doctor.

The goal is to improve patient access to their regular doctors though workers can also use NowClinic to find any physician for urgent medical care, said Karen Silgen, senior director for OptumHealth.

Telemedicine will create greater efficiencies in healthcare by allowing patients and providers to seamlessly communicate and share information regardless of geographic location, Silgen said.

The company is already conducting a pilot program for individual patients in Texas.

UnitedHealth has invested heavily in telemedicine. Last year, the company said it will spend “tens of millions” of dollars to build Connected Care, the nation’s first national telehealth network. UnitedHealth is partnering with Cisco Technologies, which has developed sophisticated video conference technologies

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