By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — What if you got sick at work? The fastest way to see the doctor may be on a computer screen.

A work clinic for UPMC employees in Uptown is one of 12 that has this kind of program up and running. The plan is to have all 12 UPMC workplace clinics equipped like this within two years.

“It’s exciting, so I think the employees have received it very well and we’re excited about where this whole telemedicine and technology’s gonna take us in medicine,” says David Weir of UPMC Workpartners.

A pretend patient demonstrated how it works. A fiber optic exam has some advantages, actually.

“They can magnify up to 40 times and I can freeze the image, which I can’t do in my own exam room,” says Dr. Shadrack Jones through the computer as he sits at UPMC Passavant Cranberry.

And the patient sees what the doctor sees.

“It’s actually pretty cool to see the inside of your ear,” says the model patient, Heather Spiegal.

It’s open 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. But what if something happened after office hours?

Highmark also has a workplace clinic for minor ailments. This is a face-to-face encounter during the day.

“I think in the ideal world, face to face is best,” says Dr. Donald Fischer of Highmark, “but there are certainly times where a call to a physician or care provider could handle what you need to have handled.”

For employees with urgent issues after hours, Highmark is experimenting with a program called Teladoc, where you could call for a consultation at midnight, for example, and the doctor would call you back within minutes.

“We’re going to trial it to see what the member satisfaction is from doing that, what the potential cost is, and how it ties in to quality and cost,” says Dr. Fischer.

These alternative types of doctor visits are not meant to replace primary care, but rather, they are to supplement primary care when the office is closed.

These programs aren’t available to everyone right now. You have to be an employee or member, but the idea is to find out what works and then they might open up in more locations to the greater population.

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