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C Spire, University of Mississippi Medical Center debut new mobile health app

HU MEENA

C Spire executives and state medical leaders unveiled a new mobile app today that promises to improve access to quick, reliable health care for more people in Mississippi, especially those in rural and underserved areas, with minor ailments.

The telehealth app, C Spire Health, is the product of over two years of development by C Spire in collaboration with the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and is available to any consumer physically located in the Magnolia State on any mobile carrier and can be downloaded from the Google Play and Apple App stores to any smartphone that runs either the Android or iOS operating systems.

After downloading the app and registering for the service, consumers will be able to make an appointment and connect via their smartphone for a live video session with a UMMC clinician.  A Mississippi-based licensed medical service provider will be able to virtually evaluate and prescribe treatments for over 20 common, minor medical ailments ranging from coughs, colds, the flu and seasonal allergies to headaches, earaches, sore throats and insect bites through the telehealth app.

Initially, UMMC clinicians will be available Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Following a video appointment, which costs $59 per visit with no insurance requirement, the clinician can send prescriptions directly to a pharmacy located in the patient’s area.  Consumers can use the service without a contract or long-term commitment, easily add dependents to their profile and are charged only at the end of the video appointment.

“We’re excited about giving consumers more choices to better manage their health care with simple, easy and convenient solutions,” said Hu Meena, chairman and CEO of C Spire, a Mississippi-based diversified telecommunications and technology services firm.  “Busy families, millennials and people who live in rural areas will greatly benefit from this service.”

Meena said C Spire, which has over 30 years of experience serving some of the state’s most remote areas, is delivering the health care solutions of tomorrow today for treatment of minor conditions.  “For certain ailments, it’s no longer necessary to go to a health care facility.  Now, health care can come to the consumer,” he added.

“This will benefit consumers that have few options to access the health care system,” said Kevin Cook, CEO of the UMMC Health System.  UMMC is one of only two accredited Telehealth Centers of Excellence and has led industry efforts in Mississippi for broader adoption of telemedicine.  As the program expands, more medical professionals across the state are expected to participate as active providers, Cook noted.

If a remote clinician determines the consumer is dealing with symptoms from a serious or chronic health condition, the person will be directed to their personal doctor, a primary care physician, specialist or a local hospital emergency room for immediate help.  “We are committed to ensuring that patients get the best quality and most timely care possible,” Cook said.

The app debuts at a time when hospitals and doctors are looking for new, creative ways to combat physician shortages, underserved areas and growing consumer preferences for more convenient access and treatment for minor health issues and conditions, according to Ryan Kelly, executive director of the Mississippi Telehealth and Rural Health Associations.

Kelly cited a 2015 American Medical Association study that shows almost 75 percent of all doctor, urgent care and emergency room visits are either unnecessary or could be handled safely and effectively via telehealth solutions.    “Millennials want family-friendly convenience that saves them time and money. People in rural areas need access,” he said.

Homegrown telehealth apps like the one developed by C Spire and UMMC should help the Magnolia State improve its poor performance in key nationwide health indicators, including ranking No. 47 in comparison to other states for total number of doctors, No.50 in access to clinical care and No. 47 in preventable hospitalizations in 2018, according to Kelly.

Kelly said nearly half of doctors and hospitals surveyed in a 2017 RuralHealthWeb study attributed patient care gaps to challenges in rural and underserved areas.  “We must do a better job of meeting people at their point of need for health care, especially in our state where many people live in rural areas with often limited access to available transportation,” he said.

Meena said technology innovation in health care is a key part of the C Spire Tech Movement, a companywide effort begun in 2017 also designed to help move the region forward through improvements in broadband access and workforce development.  “Technology can help us tackle and solve some of the 21st century challenges to health care,” he said.

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