The phrase “the doctor will now see you” may soon take on a different meaning under a new initiative announced today.

Minneapolis-based UnitedHealth Group and San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems Inc. are partnering to build a telehealth network intended to link doctors and patients when in-person visits are not possible.  The companies says the “Connected Care” program will meld Cisco video conferencing and networking technology with resources from UnitedHealth Group’s national care provider network in order to expand physicians’ reach into rural and retail clinics and even the homes of patients.

“Connected Care is the house call for the 21st century and is our latest innovation providing people with greater access to quality care,” Stephen Hemsley UnitedHealth Group CEO said in a statement. “The combination of Cisco’s technology and our national health care resources will make it easier for people to receive care where distance has been an obstacle.”

The companies say Connected Care is being built on an open network that will integrate multiple vendors’ technologies with electronic health records and other IT platforms. To showcasing the technology and connectivity available through the network, the companies displayed an 18-wheel mobile clinic on Capitol Hill.

“In developing advanced telemedicine technologies, we’re unlocking new possibilities for how patients can interact with doctors and medical staff,” added Dr. Kaveh Safavi, VP Global Healthcare Practice, for Cisco. “This new technology-enabled delivery model will improve productivity and efficiency in health care while at the same time minimizing costs for access to quality care services.”

Declining to divulge an exact figure, UnitedHealth Group said has committed tens of millions of dollars toward the new initiative.

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