It’s 2 a.m. and your dry cough, fever and sore throat aren’t getting any better. You know you need help, but the thought of sitting in a local emergency room for hours to see a doctor sounds even less appealing than a sleepless night at home. No problem — just turn on your computer and log on to a cyber medical office called WorldDoc.com. This unique business venture allows a corporate client’s ill employees to get answers to their medical questions within minutes, all from the comfort of their homes.
Dr. Jerry Reeves, president and chief executive officer of Las Vegas-based WorldDoc.com, said the online medical outlet could make suffering from symptoms while waiting for a doctor’s appointment a thing of the past. “It’s like a housecall,” Reeves said. “It’s making answers available when you really need them.” WorldDoc.com — founded in 1999 by Las Vegas podiatrist Sydney James and developed by physicians in 18 medical specialties — is targeting large employers worldwide. Las Vegas-based Coast Resorts, with its 8,000 employees, is the first company to implement the program as part of its healthcare package.
Coast employees started using it in February. With their personal computers, authorized WorldDoc.com users sign on to the interactive site using a password. They are then connected to their own Personal Evaluation System, where their data is stored in a cyber-file. A blue wire-framed figure appears, and patients simply click on areas of the body that are ailing them or choose from a list of symptoms. After answering a short list of questions similar to what a doctor would ask, a list of three possible conditions appears.
“This is not a replacement for doctor care, and you still need to see your doctor if there is something serious,” Reeves said. “This is really to enable people to understand.” It is, however, an educational tool that can reduce the number of doctor visits for patients, thereby reducing the amount of healthcare costs for employers. Reeves said when someone visits the doctor’s office, 80 percent of the time they spend may involve gathering basic information. With WorldDoc.com, that information can be garnered much more quickly, cutting down on the number of visits.
WorldDoc.com disseminates information written at an eighth-grade reading level, making it extremely user-friendly. The program assesses more than 90 percent of medical conditions for which people commonly seek care and answers roughly 1,000 frequently asked questions. It also gives advice on how to begin self-care if appropriate. “A lot of medical conditions can be safely and effectively treated with medicines you can buy at the local drug store in the over-the-counter section,” Reeves said.
Coast Resorts is currently installing kiosks with Internet access in the cafeterias of its four hotels — The Orleans, Sun Coast, Barbary Coast and Gold Coast — for employees to access during their breaks. Bob Berglund, director of benefits at Coast Resorts, said the online service has been well-received by employees. It is also helping to reduce costs for the self-insured company. “Healthcare costs are growing between 9 percent and 10 percent each year and it’s just going to continue,” Berglund said. “We can’t just keep absorbing these cost increases. We think this is going to be very important for our employees, allowing them to access healthcare and possibly avoid trips to an urgent care or a primary care facility.”
Reeves said WorldDoc.com has also signed agreements with the Brevard County government in Florida and the Coi Solutions Inc./TeleMedica Group, a Canada-based insurance company. It is in negotiations with the British National Health Service in London, among others. WorldDoc.com is currently working with the Division of Aging in Nevada to make the service available in senior centers throughout the state. “I think WorldDoc.com will do for healthcare what ATM windows have done for banking,” Reeves said. “It’s revolutionary.”