Albany Supermarket Offers Doctors on Demand on Video Screen

Price Chopper, the family-owned supermarket chain based in Schenectady, is launching a telemedicine pilot program in five of its stores in Fulton, Johnstown, Poughkeepsie, Bennington, Vermont and Glenmont, an Albany suburb.  For a $40 fee patients can see a doctor on a video screen in the store for fifteen minutes.  The doctors are from Doctor on Demand, a national telemedicine company.    Doctors must have a license to practice in New York.  Doctors can diagnose symptoms and prescribe medicine for non-emergency ailments like cold, flu or sinus infections.

Price Chopper pharmacy staff told the Albany Times Union that the video doctor is not appropriate for someone with a serious emergency.  The store pharmacist would step in and call 911 if necessary.

These Price Chopper supermarket locations already have pharmacies and many supermarkets are serving as mini-clinics to provide flu shots or walk in clinics with health care staff on hand. Telemedicine is an extension of that.   While this trend is another example of health care becoming more consumer oriented, serious health care requires an ongoing relationship with both a doctor and a pharmacist.  So telemedicine is no substitute for primary care.

Telemedicine may be good for those needing an immediate prescription for a non-serious health care problem.  It will be interesting to review the experience of telemedicine and see who those are, whether they are uninsured or patients who could not get access to health care in other ways.   It will also be interesting to see how pharmacies, urgent care clinics and supermarkets position themselves as health care keeps changing and moving out into the community.

Poll Says 80% of Voters Support Paid Family Leave

A new Siena College Poll out today reveals that 80% of voters favor a paid family leave program in New York State with only 18% opposed.  Support was across the board with 87% of Democrats, 69% of Republicans, 74% of Independents.  People under 35 in child bearing years had the highest support at 95%.  Those over 55 supported the proposal with 73%.  95% of Hispanics were in favor, 92% of African Americans and 78% of Whites.

The poll comes just after a rally on Friday by Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden in support of the idea and a day before a lobby day on Tuesday in Albany.  The issue has generated tremendous momentum in the past month with the Governor’s support and now this poll.  There is also a possibility the Assembly may vote on the issue on the floor tomorrow.  The Assembly passed the bill supported by the coalition and sponsored by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.  That bill is more generous that what the Governor proposed and advocates continue to have discussions with the Governor’s staff to request that he support the Assembly version which would peg the benefit at 2/3 of a worker’s weekly salary up to a cap of 50% of the average statewide weekly wage.  The Governor’s bill starts a four year phase in at just 35% of worker’s salary and rises to 50% in 2021.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 17 Albany county legislators has proposed that the county offer forty days of paid family leave to employees and are introducing legislation to do so.  The proposal would cover paid time off to care for a newborn or a seriously ill relative.  County Executive Dan McCoy had previously proposed a family leave program that was not enacted.

The Siena poll showed statewide support for a gradual increase in the minimum wage by a 65% – 33% margin.  The upstate margin was only 52% -46% in favor though.