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Online Training, Cetification Offered for Virtual Care Doctors

HealthTap's two-hour course and exam gives clinicians a chance to learn the 'art and science' of delivering virtual care.

By Eric Wicklund

- Healthcare providers generally agree that a virtual visit requires a different skillset than an in-person visit. Now a California-based telehealth provider is offering free training and certification for clinicians eager to get into the field.

HealthTap, which boasts more than 100,000 doctors in its medical advice database, is offering certification and an official Category 1 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit upon completion of the two-hour online course and a passing grade on an exam. Advance certification is available for clinicians who have delivered 50 hours of virtual care and for those who have delivered 100 hours of virtual care (an advance exam is included).

“Offering benefits far beyond telemedicine, virtual care gives people access to trusted information created by doctors, such as personalized tips and answers to health questions,” Raj Goyal, MD, HealthTap’s director of physician education and medical affairs, said in a press release. “Virtual care also provides ubiquitous useful data and tools like automated reminders and health checklists that are available right from patients’ and doctors’ mobile devices and computers 24/7.”

With telehealth expected to become a billion-dollar industry in two years, according to a report from Accenture, healthcare providers large and small are adopting virtual care platforms to drive new business and connect with their patients outside the office. Just last December, a survey conducted by the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine found that more than 80 percent of providers and consumers are comfortable with video-based care.

More than 200 million people participated in a virtual care visit last year, according to HealthTap, and some prominent health systems see the platform someday overtaking in-person care. Robert Pearl, MD, executive director and CEO of the California-based Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, has said he expects virtual visits to outnumber office visits by 2018.

Last year, the American Telemedicine Association launched its first accreditation program, covering online patient consults. The ATA also lists five health systems as accredited telemedicine training programs – the Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network (AFHCAN), the Arizona Telemedicine Program, the University of California-Davis Health System, the UC Davis Health System’s Center for Health and Technology Telemedicine Education Program, and Waldo County General Hospital’s Center for Speech Pathology in Belfast, Maine.

HealthTap’s two-hour course, culminating in a test, covers such topics as the history of virtual care, the role of IT in care delivery, applications in individual and population disease management, legal, licensing and regulatory issues and the “art and science of providing virtual care.”

The program offers four objectives. A virtual care doctor, HealthTap says, should be able to:

  1. Define when virtual care is appropriate and when a patient is best served with in-person care;
  2. Demonstrate how to effectively communicate with virtual patients;
  3. Evaluate signs and symptoms for a patient virtually; and
  4. Use best practices when delivering virtual care.

Participants are required to read the online objectives and study the educational activity and score at least 75 percent on a test by March 31, 2018, to receive a certificate from the Colorado-based Postgraduate Institute for Medicine and HealthTap.

“Thousands of doctors from all over the world have been continuously asking questions about virtual care delivery, and we believe it is our responsibility to develop this new discipline of medicine and share what we’ve learned using the knowledge we’ve gained in the past six years with hundreds of thousands of doctors serving hundreds of millions of people virtually,” Geoffrey Rutledge, MD, HealthTap’s chief medical officer and one of five listed faculty members for the course, said in the release.

Along with Rutledge, the other faculty members are Rajiva Goyani, MD, FACC, FHRS, HealthTap’s medical director; Gregory Gilbert, MD, an associate professor at the Stanford School of Medicine; John Kuhnley, MD, a clinical assistant professor in Lynchburg, Va.; and Cornelius O’ Leary, Jr., a Las Vegas-based physician.

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