247 Online Care, which provides Skype-like visits with providers for minor ailments, is first being marketed in Albany, Rochester and Buffalo (Joann Vitelli)

247 Online Care telemedicine focusing on Albany, Buffalo, Rochester markets

By: Marie J. French | Albany Business Review

Building on a network of urgent care centers in upstate New York, a former emergency room doctor has invested in a proprietary telemedicine platform to serve patients in the state.

Dr. John Radford, founder of Five Star Urgent Care, said the new 247 Online Care has been a goal of his since he started the urgent cares. The telemedicine service, which provides Skype-like visits with providers for minor ailments, is first being marketed in Albany, Rochester and Buffalo.

The company is headquartered in Buffalo.

Telemedicine has been around for several years. There are both national and regional companies offering the service directly to individuals, and some insurers also offer it to members. The electronic visits are seen as a potential cost-saving measure as patients are directed away from more expensive settings for treatment, including emergency rooms and even urgent cares.

Radford said his telemedicine service will distinguish itself because it’s staffed with providers from the network of eight urgent cares he already runs.

“We’re focused in New York state, so we have a growing urgent care business here, so our providers are our providers. We don’t contract out,” he said.

Radford said the company is looking to enroll large employer groups and is running targeted advertising in the Albany, Rochester and Buffalo markets. The annual cost for a subscription, with multiple electronic “visits” included, is about $250, Radford said.

Another telemedicine company in the Albany area, Upstate Concierge Medicine, has more than tripled the number of employers using its service from 2015 to 2016.

Upstate Concierge has seen success primarily through East Greenbush insurance broker Rose & Kiernan’s private exchange. The doctors who provide care on the platform still practice at local emergency rooms.

Radford acknowledged there’s competition from national and local telemedicine services, but said there’s plenty of unmet demand.

“It’s the wild west that’s out there now, there’s larger players and smaller players, but I think there’s enough business out there for the folks who can differentiate themselves,” he said.

One differentiator for 247 Online Care might be the proprietary software Radford has developed as the platform for the service. He said the company has invested roughly $500,000 in programming so far. More changes to that software are planned, with a focus on adding peripherals such as blood pressure cuffs that users could keep at home.

Adding such equipment, which could be easily plugged into a USB or other port on a subscriber’s computer, would allow doctors to diagnose more ailments. An ear infection, for example, requires an examination of the patient’s ear. A scope to look into the ear is one possible piece of equipment under development, Radford said.

Marie French covers health care and government.

Originally published at www.bizjournals.com on March 3, 2016.

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