As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to plague Americans, in-person access to primary health care providers like doctors and nurse practitioners is increasingly difficult. Physically going to the doctor’s office means potentially exposing yourself, fellow patients and healthcare providers alike to a highly contagious, unpredictable and potentially deadly virus.
Durham-based RelyMD is the telemedicine solution of choice for WakeMed Virtual Urgent Care as well as other patients across the country to keep people out of the doctor’s office while still getting them the care they need. It was first started in 2015 by Wake Emergency Physicians, a group of emergency medicine specialists in the Triangle area. In 2019, RelyMD became its own separate business, under the lead of CEO and serial entrepreneur Dave Levin.
Now, RelyMD is helping doctors fight the novel coronavirus pandemic from the (relative) safety of the their offices and patients’ homes.
“We knew that telemedicine would be a big part of this, given how exposure is an important thing to control,” Levin said. “So we worked up a way to make it more affordable to the general public. We now assess and triage patients who may have flu-like symptoms, coronavirus-like symptoms, so they don’t have to go to Urgent Care or the ER.”
In Raleigh, RelyMD is working with Wake County Emergency Management, the Wake County Health Department, the North Carolina Health Department and WakeMed to help control the pandemic locally.
RelyMD is an app that can be downloaded in various app stores or just used as a web app on your computer. It can be used in a variety of different states and works the same as any doctor’s appointment. Patients will first be put in a virtual waiting room and then be notified when their doctor is ready to see them. When the doctor is ready, patients will explain their symptoms over a video chat.
“If the patient comes into our service,” Levin said, “one of our doctors will follow the CDC protocol, and we will screen them. If the patient meets criteria for testing, then we coordinate the care, so that patient is automatically sent to the right testing facility, we minimize their exposure to others, we minimize health care workers’ exposure to that person—so that we don’t spread the virus.”
Just like in a physical doctor’s office, patients are charged a co-pay. The baseline cost to see a doctor is $49 if you are unaffiliated with organizations that RelyMD has a specific contract with or are uninsured, but it could be less if RelyMD has an agreement with your employer or insurer.
“Many of the doctors who provide services on our platform also staff emergency rooms in the WakeMed system,” Levin said. “You’re just as likely to see a doctor on the RelyMD app that you would see in an actual emergency room in Apex, Cary or North Raleigh.”
Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, Levin says RelyMD’s volume has increased “more than fourfold.” So far, there have not been any hiccups in the app’s functionality.
Even though RelyMD is headquartered in North Carolina, it handles patients across the country in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. Levin said the company had an easy transition to working remotely since much of the team was already doing so. In fact, RelyMD has provided a network for participating physicians to discuss the cases they are seeing with other care providers across the country.
“A lot of what we’re doing is assuring people that everything is okay,” Levin said. “It’s unparalleled times, quite frankly. We’re all trying to figure it out together.”