CORAL SPRINGS, FL – By answering a few quick questions online, patients are reaching out to Dr. Christopher Queen to get treated for minor health issues -- right from their homes.

The medical director of the Holy Cross Urgent Care & Physician Offices in Coral Springs responds back to them -- sometimes within minutes -- through the hospital system’s VIP Virtual Visit system with treatment for pink eye, sore throat, fever, allergies, and other conditions.

“This is great for patients, and it’s so efficient,” he said.

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Welcome to modern medicine. Virtual visits, or telemedicine as it’s also called, have been around for years, not just in family practice but also in psychology and infectious disease. Hospital systems, physician offices, and other medical practices are adding or expanding the service in South Florida. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage for telemedicine without out-of-pocket costs.

At Holy Cross, which is operated by Trinity Health, the service has existed for at least six months for its patients, but soon the service is expected to open to the public.

Their virtual visits system is only available for patients with treatable conditions, and only during certain hours (9 am – 9 pm, Monday through Friday). It’s simple to use: patients go online, answer questions, and then a physician responds back within 30 minutes.

And the patient’s cost: $25.

“Everything comes to you – you don’t have to leave your home,” said Hadil Farouk, a supervisor at Holy Cross Urgent Care & Physician Offices. “This way, you avoid hours of waiting and registering.”

Despite the expansion of virtual visits in recent years, only a small percentage of people in the United States are taking advantage of them. A survey out last week by United HealthCare found that nearly 40 percent of Americans would consider using a low-cost telemedicine service, even though less than 10 percent are using it now.

Since he started doing virtual visits, Dr. Queen has treated 50 people or so for minor ailments. The system, through its questions, won’t accept patients suffering from more serious issues such as trouble breathing. They are urged to call 911 immediately.  

Dr. Queen expects the number of patients using virtual visits to go up, as his hospital system’s service rolls out to the public.

“The more comfortable people feel using it, the more people will use it,” he said.

Learn more about the hospital's VIP Virtual Visit here